Following the 49ers 13-6 victory over the Seahawks, one of the less talked about points was the fact that Vernon Davis ended the game with zero receptions and zero targets. He was asked about this after the game and pointed to the Seahawks cutting off a lot of his options:
"Nothing's there," Davis said. "When I run my corner routes the cornerback is dropping to the corner. They are just taken stuff away, some of my explosive routes and stuff."
While Davis did struggle to get looks, he was still a big-time contributor in the victory. As is often the case, when Davis appears under the radar in the passing game, he is oftentimes more than making up for it in the blocking department. Coach Harbaugh talked about that on Friday:
"Well, first of all, talking about Vernon. Vernon had one of his best games as a blocker, his blocking was outstanding. And then secondly, the touchdown block highlights it. But, his blocking all day, he's blocking [DE] Red Bryant pretty consistently the entire game. And just did one heck of a job. And allowed our centers, our guards to work the tackles and up to the linebackers. Which created some huge holes in the middle. And we could not have gotten that done without Vernon Davis blocking their 350-pound defensive end. So, he was wearing the sombrero a big part of the game. And it led to some huge plays. And then the touchdown block was huge. And maybe one of the biggest plays that just without looking at the tape and noticing the real big plays he made during the game and the blocking schemes was the tackle after the interception. Which was huge for the game, huge for the field position, and a great hustle play by Vernon. So, when you talk about this was a physical game, a physical half of football, Vernon was one of the tips of the spears in that regard. Definitely he was targeted. We couldn't get him the ball in the passing game. And that occurs from time to time. But, it was still a great game by Vernon, for those reasons."
While I am already aware that Vernon is a bad-ass when it comes to blocking, I decided to take a look back at the game-tape to find some specific examples. I started with the Delanie Walker touchdown. Walker acknowledged the value of the block after the game, indicating he probably does not get into the end zone otherwise.
Delanie Walker (yellow) is lined up on the far right side of the line. Davis began the play off Walker's right, but was sent in motion to the left side (red). At the snap, Walker ran across the lower part of the middle, while Davis went a bit further up and out. The corner on the top (blue) dropped off Randy Moss after the snap and took over covering Vernon Davis.
This second shot shows Walker (yellow) right after catching the ball. David (red) has turned back toward the play and sees Walker has the ball. The blue circles are around the three Seahawks defenders in the area.
This third picture is from the endzone camera portion of the Coaches Film. This picture is a second or so after the previous picture, with Vernon Davis preparing to engage cornerback Brandon Browner (No. 39). Behind Browner, you see No. 29 Earl Thomas and No. 50 K.J. Wright trying to get to Walker.
The red circle is showing Vernon Davis basically forcing three players out of the play with one block, allowing Walker to scamper around for the touchdown. Davis engaged Browner, but also got a hand on Thomas, slowing down the safety's pursuit of Walker. Wright is not engaged by Davis on the play, but he does not have a straight path to get to Walker, thanks to Davis' block.
This next play was a pretty basic run that gained Frank Gore seven yards on the first play from scrimmage. It is not a huge gainer, but we get to see Vernon Davis begin what would be a strong day against Red Bryant.
Davis is second from the end on the left side, with Walker to his immediate left. At the snap, he engaged Bryant, creating an opening for Gore to slip by.
Davis (red) has engaged Bryant. Frank Gore had run towards that spot where Bryant is, but he proceeded to shuffle left around Davis and Bryant. Bruce Miller is the blocker on the left side of that run, setting up a nice hole for Gore to gain seven.
This next run came with 14:20 left in the fourth quarter. Frank Gore burst through the line for a 37-yard gain. While Vernon Davis did not have pertinent blocking on this play, I tend to think his presence might to some extent have helped spring this run.
Vernon lined up on the right, bunched up next to Delanie Walker. Strong safety Kam Chancellor was lined up on Davis. Before the snap, Smith sent Davis out wide and Chancellor followed him.
The 49ers sent Gore right up the gut. He initially ran over left guard, cut back a little bit to his right after getting past the line, and then down to his left trying to throw off Earl Thomas. I included a blue dot where Chancellor had previously been before Davis was sent in motion. I realize I am making certain assumptions with this, but if Chancellor had not moved out wide, he has a chance to cut off the Gore run considerably earlier.
I think the first two plays show a lot more than the third, but all three show us some measure of Vernon Davis' value, even when he is not catching the ball. Ideally he will get back into the swing of things this week against the Arizona Cardinals, but we know there is still plenty of value to be had from Vernon Davis.