Playoff pressure doesn't affect Vernon Davis. At least it doesn't seem that way.
In the rich history of the NFL, Davis' start to his postseason career ranks among the best of them. Davis has played in just four playoff games, both coming in the last two seasons, but is already moving up the record books with his impressive big-time performances.
With last week's five-catch, 106-yard, one-touchdown effort, Davis is already in elite company. Call it rising to the occasion.
"This is what you play for," Davis said. "We spend all our lives – as a kid, then we grow up and go to high school and college – and we play for this moment."
It's here now and Davis couldn't be better.
In last week's 28-24 win at Atlanta in the NFC Championship, Davis registered his third career 100-yard game in the playoffs, which ties him with Dallas Clark for the second-most by a tight end in NFL history. If he does it again in Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens, he'll tie Keith Jackson for the postseason tight end record with four games of at least 100 yards.
It was an explosive game for Davis after a season when defenses made him the focus of their gameplans on almost a weekly basis. While teams often did a good job of limiting Davis' receptions, he didn't brood, but rather bask in the success of his teammates.
"This was a lesson learned for me this year," Davis said. "It tested my patience and I was patient and just waited for my opportunity."
Davis worked his way in to many wide-open opportunities in the NFC Championship at Atlanta. The Falcons often left Davis in single coverage with a linebacker and the talented tight end made them pay. He routinely blew by his man and found soft spots in the defense en route to catching three passes of at least 25 yards.
But for most of the season, defenses often double and even triple-teamed Davis, making it hard for the 49ers quarterbacks to throw him the ball. There was a time when Davis would have bemoaned a regular season that featured 41 catches for 548 yards and five touchdowns, but he's matured past that now.
"When I first came in, it was all about me. I'm not going to lie," Davis said. "It was all about what I wanted; I didn't look at it from a team standpoint. But I grew. … Now, it's all about the team. I get happy just to see other guys succeed."
Another teammate Davis has enjoyed watching and playing with is second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Just a couple of weeks ago, Davis said he was still building chemistry with Kaepernick in the passing game, but it looks like tandem is firing on all cylinders now.
"It's all about timing," Davis said. "My number was called, I got open and they didn't play me the way they should have. I took advantage of the opportunities and that's what it's about."
If Davis wants to have a big day on the game's biggest stage, he'll have to do so against Ray Lewis and the hard-nosed Baltimore defense. Lewis sat out with an injury when these two teams faced each other on Thanksgiving in 2011, but Davis is looking forward to competing against the future Hall of Fame linebacker in his final game before he retires.
"Their defense looks good," Davis said. "They're flying around. They're quick up front – they've got some big guys but they're quick. The secondary looks pretty good. Ed Reed, we all know that he's a ball hawk, so we have to be careful in our decisions as far as throwing the ball."