“Cannot win with him” is how the infamous rant of one Mike Singletary went in regard to a one-time NFL brat named Vernon Davis.
But that tirade uttered four seasons ago no longer rings true. Because on Jan. 20, the 49ers — playing in their second NFC Championship Game in as many years — won with Davis.
And won spectacularly.
In the seven games prior to the one in the Georgia Dome, Davis had caught as many passes for a cumulative 105 yards, and not one of them in the end zone. That changed in Atlanta against the Falcons.
“Each and every game I tell myself, ‘If I’m just out there blocking, man, I’m just happy to be out there,’” Davis said. “I’m not worried about the stats, because those things will come.”
And on Jan. 20, they did.
The seventh-year tight end had his best performance all year in scorching the Falcons for 106 yards on five receptions while scoring a touchdown. But questions, and concerns, had risen before the game about Davis’ productivity — or lack thereof.
“Everywhere I go, they’re always talking, ‘Vernon, why aren’t you involved?’” Davis said. “It’s bigger than that.”
His coaches agree.
“Everything we do in the passing game is really reacting,” 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said.
“Hopefully that has something to do with the fact that we’re going to try to throw the ball to the open guy. And Vernon was open just by the way things played out. And he did a great job.”
“Vernon Davis always has been, always will be a big part of our passing game — and a big part of our running game,” coach Jim Harbaugh added. “So, that hasn’t changed or will change.”
But playing the humble role of coverage decoy and pass blocker wasn’t all easy.
“This was a lesson learned for me this year. It tested my patience and I was patient and just waited for my opportunity,” Davis said. “That’s why we’re winning, because we don’t have a lot of guys here that’s all about themselves.”
Davis, admittedly, didn’t always have that quality. But he remembers the coach who, in an abrupt lesson in humility, benched him.
“When I first came in this game, it was all about me,” Davis said. “I’m not going to lie. It was all about what I wanted. I didn’t look at it from a team standpoint. And I grew. Coach Singletary was here, and he helped me make that transition from a boy to a young man. And I’m very thankful for that. I thank God for that.”