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January 20, 2013
Death from above: Davis provides lift, but 49ers can't slow Atlanta air attack


There's been a Vernon Davis sighting in Atlanta, and Mr. January has helped turn what seemed like a Falcons runaway into a 10-point contest.

The 49ers tight end, who has virtually disappeared from the San Francisco offense since a Nov. 19 game against the Bears, has four catches for 75 yards and a touchdown in the first half of a 24-14 game. Davis, of course, was the team's offensive MVP in the playoffs a year ago, accounting for four touchdowns and 292 yards.

The 49ers desperately need an uptick in offensive production considering their defense has allowed The Falcons to score on four of their five offensive possessions.

Davis' big-play counterpart on the Falcons has been wide receiver Julio Jones, who has seven catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns. A broken coverage allowed Jones to get free on a 46-yard touchdown pass in the first half. He was well-covered by Tarell Brown on another score, but grabbed the ball in the corner of the end zone and got both feet in bounds.

Jones also snatched away an interception opportunity by safety Dashon Goldson in the opening quarter. Goldson had a chance for two interceptions in last year's NFC Championship game, but both fell harmlessly incomplete in a game in which the 49ers did not have a single takeaway.

In addition, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan (271 yards) orchestrated a quick, seven-play, 1:30 touchdown drive just before the half that wrestled back the momentum from the surging 49ers. Ryan hit his favorite red-zone target, tight end Tony Gonzalez, who was being covered by Patrick Willis, for a 10-yard touchdown.

By contrast, the Falcons have just 26 rushing yards at the half. Frank Gore has 28 yards (on eight carries) for San Francisco while Colin Kaepernick, the NFL record holder in rushing yards by a quarterback, has one rush for 23 yards.

The 49ers' offense had two three-and-outs to open the game. It started to come back to life in the second quarter when Colin Kaepernick led the team on an 11-play drive that included a third-and-seven conversion near midfield. He hit Davis on a crossing pattern on that play, and the tight end ran down to the Atlanta 15-yard line. Two plays later, LaMichael James got around the outside of the Falcons defensive and scooted in for his first-ever NFL touchdown.

- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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