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Notebook: Vernon Davis Stays Hot

Posted Sep 23, 2012

The 11-85 connection is alive and well.

While Sunday’s 24-13 loss at Minnesota was certainly disappointing for the 49ers, there was still some silver lining to the deflating defeat. At the top of the list is the chemistry between Alex Smith and Vernon Davis, who connected for a 1-yard score to account for the team’s only touchdown on the afternoon.

But in the end, the 49ers (2-1) couldn’t keep pace with the Vikings, who controlled time of possession and the tone of the game.

“Bouncing back and making darn sure it doesn’t happen again, that’s what brings you back on Monday,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Come back after a loss, you’ve got to go to work the same, double your efforts and make darn sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Davis helped set up his touchdown with a stellar 20-yard catch, when he outhustled Vikings safety Jamarca Stanford down the right side of the field before hauling in the reception. On the ensuing play, Davis snuck out to the back of the end zone on a play-action fake and caught the pass from Smith without a defender close by.

“We started talking amongst each other and we knew that we had to put something together in order to win this game because we were down by some points,” Davis said. “But this is the National Football League, sometimes when you’re down it’s hard to get back up.”

Sunday’s performance was the latest in what’s been a stellar start to the 2012 campaign for Davis. He totaled five catches for 53 yards and a touchdown, becoming the league’s first player to record four receiving scores this year.

Davis has hauled in four of Smith’s five passing touchdowns this year. The tight end has been on the receiving end of 41.1 percent of Smith’s career touchdown passes (30 of 73), which is the highest mark among all active teammates.

Davis’ touchdown cut the San Francisco deficit to 17-13 with 6:17 left in the third quarter. It appeared the 49ers were gaining momentum, but a trio of fourth-quarter 49ers turnovers hurt their comeback chances down the stretch as the Vikings (2-1) earned the hard-fought victory.

“As a team, we made some huge mistakes that hurt us,” Davis said.

Davis wasn’t the only big play contributor in the 49ers passing game on Sunday. Continuing a season-long trend, Michael Crabtree was Smith’s go-to guy on third downs, converting three first down catches on the afternoon.

Crabtree displayed his trademark toughness on several occasions, dragging defenders with him to pick up extra yards. In all, Crabtree led the 49ers with six catches, racking up 40 yards.

Fellow wideout Mario Manningham had his most productive day in a 49ers uniform, notching a team-high 56 yards on five catches. Randy Moss also contributed in his first contest at the Metrodome as a member of the opposing team, catching three passes for 27 yards.

But after the game, Smith was more focused on the missed opportunities the 49ers offense had. Smith and Moss failed to connect on a would-be first down pass early in the game, before missing out on a possible touchdown pass later in the first half.

The 49ers signal-caller, who finished 24 of 35 for 204 yards, a touchdown and an interception, took full responsibility for the shortcomings on offense.

“Left too much out there,” Smith said. “Those two plays to Randy early, he and I have got to connect. I’ve got to get better balls there on both of those occasions, because those are both key plays.”

While he only had two catches for 16 yards in the contest, Kyle Williams still had a huge impact for the 49ers. That’s because he provided a 94-yard punt return to start the second half, bringing the ball from eight yards deep in the end zone down to the Minnesota 14-yard line.

But the 49ers couldn’t take advantage of the great field position, as they settled for a 29-yard field goal from David Akers to end the drive.

“I thought we had it with that kickoff return,” Davis said. “I kept my faith and I know the team did, kept our faith, kept believing. We tried to pull it off but we didn’t get it. It wasn’t our day today.”

Williams filled in for injured kick return man Ted Ginn Jr., and provided a “spark” to the team, according to Harbaugh. The third-year wideout also added a 50-yard kick return and a 16-yard punt return during the contest.

As tough as the loss was, the 49ers are taking full accountability for the defeat. There won’t be any fingers pointed or excuses made as they get ready for next week’s road matchup against the New York Jets.

“They came out and executed better than us,” Smith said. “That’s it, they executed better than us. When you’re only putting up 13 points on offense, that’s usually not going to get it done.”

Off To Youngstown

Instead of heading back home to the Bay Area following Sunday’s defeat, the 49ers boarded a short flight to Ohio as they prepare to spend the week in Youngstown to prepare for their Week 4 game at New York.

Many players pointed to last year’s trip as a bonding experience for the team and are hoping this year’s stay will build more camaraderie for the team going forward.

“I think it will bring us together more as a team,” Davis said. “Because you’re in the hotel and you’re on the road and you get a chance to bond with guys that you might not have had an opportunity to bond with and that’s very important. When you’re in a team atmosphere you want to bond with your teammates so that we can go out and win on Sundays.”

The 49ers will take their no frills approach to Youngstown State University, where they will use the school’s football facilities and fields as they try to bounce back from their first loss of the season.

“It really doesn’t matter where we spend our week at,” Davis said. “As long as we got a practice field, we can work. That’s the most important thing is getting our timing down and work throughout the week.”

Rewriting the Record Books

Moss and Frank Gore each made their share of football history during Sunday’s contest at the Metrodome.

With his 27 yards receiving on the afternoon, Moss became No. 4 on the NFL’s all-time receiving yards list. Moss now has 14,946 yards for his career, trailing only Jerry Rice (22,895), Terrell Owens (15,934) and Issac Bruce (15,208), all of whom played for the 49ers. It was fitting that Moss achieved the feat in Minnesota, where he spent the first seven years of his Hall of Fame career.

While Gore became the franchise’s all-time NFL rushing leader last season, he surpassed friend and mentor Roger Craig on the team’s all-time rushing attempts list Sunday. Gore, who entered the day tied with Craig, carried the ball 12 times for 63 yards and now has 1,698 career attempts.

Notes and Quotes

NaVorro Bowman led all players with 18 tackles on Sunday, which was a career high. The 49ers also forced two fumbles on the day from Toby Gerhart in the fourth quarter, but have work to do on the defensive side of the ball.

“The game went back and forth,” Bowman said. “Those guys played a great game and we just kept fighting. A lot of good came out of this game as well. We just have to get better and move on to the Jets.”

Linebacker Eric Bakhtiari, who was signed to a two-year deal earlier this week, made his 49ers debut wearing No. 96 in the first half. Bakhtiari had played in three games with the Tennessee Titans on special teams duty in 2009, but Sunday marked his first NFL action on defense.

Akers converted a pair of 29-yard field goals but had another attempt blocked. He is now 7-for-8 on the season.

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