NEW ORLEANS — Just past the midway point of the regular season, tight end Vernon Davis appeared to become a forgotten man on the San Francisco 49ers’ offense.
After coach Jim Harbaugh said hello to second-year backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick in Week 11 and goodbye to concussed starter Alex Smith and his gaudy 104.1 passer rating, Davis ended up catching a meager six passes in the 49ers’ final six games.
Count ’em: 0-2-1-1-1-1.
In all, he had 15 receptions for 168 yards and a touchdown in 71/2 regular-season games with Kaepernick as the starting quarterback compared with 26 catches for 380 yards and four scores with Smith under center.
But Davis never lost confidence in himself or Kaepernick’s ability to find him. Davis’ faith was rewarded in the NFC Championship Game, when the pair collaborated on five connections for 106 yards and a touchdown in the 49ers’ 28-24 comeback victory at Atlanta.
Davis hopes to be there for Kaepernick again Sunday when the 49ers face the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“It’s taken me a while to be able to click with one of my most dangerous weapons,’’ Kaepernick admitted this week.
“How did Kaep find me in that last game against Atlanta? It’s all about how the defense plays you,’’ Davis said. “What happened in the Atlanta game was, they took their eyes off of me and I was able to get open numerous times and he found me.’’
In a nutshell, Kaepernick said Davis is a “nightmare matchup for linebackers and safeties.’’
“That’s what it’s all about,’’ said Davis, the sixth pick in the 2006 draft. “It’s about each and every week. You never know what’s going to happen but you always have to be prepared.’’
Davis learned that lesson the hard way Oct. 26, 2008, in Mike Singletary’s coaching debut with the 49ers. With 10 minutes remaining in a 34-13 loss to Seattle, Singletary inexplicably sent Davis to the locker room after he was flagged for an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.
Afterward, Singletary called Davis’ actions “uncoachable’’ and said he would rather play with 10 men than have to deal with an apathetic 11-man squad.
That memorable rant — “Cannot play with ’em. Cannot coach with ’em. Cannot win with ’em. Can’t do it!” — continues to be hot-ticket item on YouTube more than four years later.
“Growing as a man, I had to go through some stuff first,’’ said Davis, whose signature season came in 2009 — 78 catches, 965-yards and 13 TDs — just a year after Singletary’s public display of disaffection.
“I had to figure this out and find out who I was as a player. Singletary helped me channel my emotions and really find out the best route to go. Putting my teammates first was the best thing I could’ve done. Once I did that, things started to happen for me. I started to see the game differently. It wasn’t about me anymore. It was about my team.’’
Now Davis’ team is a victory away from capturing the 49ers’ first championship since Super Bowl XXIX following the 1994 season.
“We pretty much had to support Harbaugh’s decision,’’ Davis said of the midseason change at quarterback.
“He is the head coach, so whatever decision he makes we have to support it no matter what — whether we like it or dislike it.’’