The 11-85 connection was established several years ago as a tried and trusted coordidor. The 7-85 connection? It's still under construction, said tight end Vernon Davis, who said he's having to start from scratch as far as building chemistry with a new quarterback.
"That's something me and Kap don't have right now," said Davis, who was held to one catch Sunday in New England. "We don't have it. You have to expect (that because) he just stepped in. Me and Alex - we've been there. It takes time. It took time for me and Alex to get like that."
"In the beginning, he'd underthrow me, he'd overthrow me because we had to build that chemistry that I would be in that spot right when I need to be," Davis said of Smith. "And that's something that me and Kap don't have right now. But we're working on it. We started working on it the moment he walked in."
Indeed, Davis has built a strong relationship with Smith as shown by his prolific postseason last January in which he had four touchdowns - including the game winner against New Orleans - and 292 yards in two games. That rapport led Davis to call it the "11-85 connection."
Davis' struggles this season, however, began when Smith still was the starting quarterback. He was held without a catch in a Week 7 game against Seattle and had fewer than 50 yards receiving in four other games that Smith started and finished.
Kaepernick's first start, on Nov. 19 against the Bears, was one of Davis' best outings of the year from a receiving standpoint. He finished with a season-high six catches for 83 yards and a touchdown, and he said afterward that the game felt as if someone had taken the "handcuffs" off of him.
But he's struggled to get opportunities since. He's had four catches for 29 yards in the four games since and was shutout again in the win against New Orleans. Kaepernick threw two passes to Davis at the goal line against the Patriots. Both sailed just beyond his reach. Whether Davis could have stretched out for the first of those attempts is debatable.
Asked about those near misses, Davis got the heebie jeebies. "I get chills when I think about it," he said.
Davis said that he and Kaepernick have been working on their chemistry the way he and Smith did years ago. He said that the quarterback perhaps has too much respect for his speed.
"In practice he would overthrow me," Davis said. "I think he's just kind of scared on my speed a little bit. He doesn't really know it. We don't have that timing. It'll come. Just like any quarterback and any wide receiver. It takes time. ... That's what makes football that much more interesting and fun."
Other receivers have said they've had to adjust to the velocity of Kaepernick's passes. He had the strongest arm of anyone in the 2011 draft - including No. 1 overall draft pick Cam Newton - and it's certainly more powerful than Smith's.
Said Davis: "He's strong. I heard rumors of him wanting to get bigger. I said, 'Nooooo, noooo. No need to get bigger.' But he's strong, very strong arm, which is a good thing. And like I said, his future is very bright."
Another 49ers tight end has seen an uptick in production since Kaepernick became the starter. Delanie Walker had seven catches and a touchdown in the nine games Smith started. He has eight catches and a touchdown in Kaepernick's five starts.
- Matt Barrows