ATLANTA — Vernon Davis’s touches seemed like they were vanishing the deeper the season went.
Some games enough balls would come the 49ers’ tight end’s way for him to come up with three catches, maybe five, but no more than six. Some days it was just a couple.
It reached bottom against Seattle and New Orleans when he started, the way he’s done 102 times in his career, and didn’t catch a single ball.
The last four weeks of the season, he caught one ball in each game.
The coaches weren’t ignoring him, he said.
“They’ve been calling my number,” he said. “I can’t downplay that. The coach has been calling my number, it just didn’t work out for me. It’s like that sometimes.”
But throughout the 49ers’ 28-24 NFC Championship win over the Falcons Sunday, Davis was too open to miss. He caught five passes for 106 yards and a 4-yard touchdown in the second quarter, coming up again and again as a reliable outlet for quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
It was his best game since making five catches for 106 yards against Buffalo in Week 5 and it helped deliver the 49ers to their first Super Bowl since 1995. There was no difference in X’s and O’s, he said, he just kept getting open.
“Opportunity, man,” Davis said. “Without opportunity, you have nothing. Each and every week it’s always been a priority to get me into the offense. It’s just that the defenses play us a certain way and it just doesn’t happen. We’re winning. I can’t complain about that. All I can do is pump my fist and say thank you.”
Drafted by the Niners with the sixth overall pick in 2006, he’s been with the franchise as it has gone through the process of rebuilding into a championship contender. Doing the grunt work isn’t an issue, he said.
“I’m going to do whatever I can to help this team, whether it’s blocking, pass protection, whatever it is,” Davis said. “I’m going to make sure I’m there and I’m a vital piece to the offense.”
A week ago, Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez tasted the playoffs for the first time in what will likely be a Hall of Fame career, but his hopes of getting to his first Super Bowl were dashed.
He caught eight balls for 78 yards and a touchdown in a losing effort, and although he was targeted eight times he didn’t get a single look on the Falcons’ final chance, a drive that stalled at the 10-yard line.
“That’s probably going to be the last time I wear that uniform, or football pads and cleats,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t want to to take it off, to tell you the truth. All good things come to an end, and like I said, this is probably my last one. But what an unbelievable ride.”
If he does officially retire, he will finish second in career catches behind Jerry Rice, seventh in receiving yards, and sixth in receiving touchdowns.
“I’m disappointed but you will not catch me complaining. It’d be rude,’’ Gonzalez said. “I owe the game a lot. It’s given me so much, and I’ve had such a great ride. Yeah, it may not have culminated in a Super Bowl, but you know what, I can’t complain. I cannot complain and I won’t.”
This season has been a rocky one for Niners kicker David Akers, who missed 13 of his 29 field goal attempts and ended the regular season with at least one miss in each of the final three games.
With a chance to tie Sunday’s game at 24, he dinged a 38-yard try off the right upright in the third quarter.
“It’s a game of inches and it lands on top of the upright,” he said. “Figure that one out.”
Looking back at last year’s team, 49ers president Jed York said he didn’t necessarily believe a team that young deserved the kind of success it enjoyed. “We had a young team,” he said. “They got together quickly after the lockout. It wasn’t like they spent a lot of time together. They won, they probably didn’t deserve to be 13-3, didn’t deserve to host an NFC Championship Game just because of the youth and inexperience, and it just kind of happened so quick. I think the moment might have been bigger for us. This year, we didn’t have the same kind of emotional win like we did coming off the Saints win last year. That was sort of a feeling of jubilation that may have brought our spirits down. This year, we were just ready” . . . A fan was stabbed in the neck after a fight outside the Georgia Dome, Channel 2 Action News in Atlanta reported. The victim was a Falcons fan, who punched a 49ers fan, then was stabbed by him in the throat area. The Falcons fan was taken to the hospital. His condition is unknown.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.