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Tuesday, December 8, 2009
When Davis' speed can be enough

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Straight-line route running is sometimes enough for 49ers tight end Vernon Davis.

The play he made for a 42-yard gain against Seattle comes to mind.

The 49ers had first-and-10 at their own 36 with 8:45 remaining in the first half Sunday. They stuck with their preferred personnel group and formation. Alex Smith lined up in the shotgun. Frank Gore stood a few yards to his left. Delanie Walker lined up in the right slot, with Davis lined up just outside him. Two wide receivers lined up outside.

The 49ers' offensive tackles prepared to protect the passer. Left tackle Barry Sims was somewhat upright as he readied to block Seahawks defensive end Darryl Tapp, lined up well outside. Defensive tackle Colin Cole lined up over left guard David Baas. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane lined up between right guard Chilo Rachal and right tackle Adam Snyder. Snyder's outside foot was about a yard behind the line of scrimmage, putting him in position to pass block. Defensive end Lawrence Jackson lined up outside Snyder, though not nearly as wide as Tapp on the other side.

Linebackers Aaron Curry, David Hawthorne and Leroy Hill lined up straight across within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.

The Seahawks played zone. Walker drifted outside at the snap, pulling Hill with him. Safety Deon Grant stayed outside. No one jammed Davis at the line. Davis made one cut inside and sprinted past Hawthorne in the middle of the field. Hawthorne paid a heavy price for hesitating as Davis approached him.

Mebane pushed the pocket, infringing on Smith's space, but Smith never seemed to acknowledge him, a good sign for him. Smith threw decisively. The pass traveled about 37 yards in the air. Davis had the ball in his hands before Grant and fellow safety Jordan Babineaux could close within 5 yards of him. Hawthorne stood no chance.

There's a lot more to like about Smith and the 49ers' passing game than we have seen for some time. I'll take a closer look at a Seahawks offensive play in a bit.