San Francisco 49ers depend on Alex Smith-Vernon Davis connection

Near the end of a recent

49ers practice, quarterback Alex

Smith and tight end Vernon Davis stood near midfield and simply

talked things over. Smith used his right arm to demonstrate where

the tight end should change direction. Davis studied the angle of

Smith’s arm and nodded in approval.

The two have a good rapport — 37 percent of Smith’s career

touchdown passes have gone to Davis — but they need to work out a

few kinks in their game.

Their bread-and-butter play, the deep seam route, is no longer a

secret. Opponents kept Davis in check earlier this season by

greeting him with double coverage any time he came tearing down the

middle of the field. The Raiders will be on alert for Davis’

signature seam route today at Candlestick Park.

That is why Davis and Smith are making sure that they aren’t

just a one-route wonder. New offensive coordinator Mike Johnson is

helping, too, as the

49ers try to counter the defensive

adjustment with a counter move of their own.

“Teams have placed cornerbacks on (Davis), they’ve placed

safeties on him, and they’re trying to jam him at the line of

scrimmage,” Johnson said. “That’s where we as coaches and myself,

we have to find ways to make sure that teams do not take him

away.

“And I think you saw that in the second half of the game against

Philadelphia. He is an explosive guy.”

Smith and Davis hit on a big one — a 36-yarder — against

Philadelphia late Sunday. The game circumstances helped open things

up. The Eagles led 24-10 at the time, and they gave Davis and other

receivers plenty of cushion.

That is when Smith found Davis matched up against strong safety

Quintin Mikell and let it rip on the deep seam.

“He did it so much last year, he gets a lot of (defensive)

attention, rightfully so, especially with that play,” Smith said.

“It’s something we hit a lot last year, him down the middle of the

field, and I think teams are aware of it.

“Maybe there were some situations earlier where you could have

tried to force the issue. I don’t know if there were any glaringly

open, but you could have tried to force it. When it comes down to

the end of the game, it was time to make a play.”

A year ago, Davis scored 13 touchdowns. He was shut out of the

end zone for the

49ers’ first three games this season

but has a touchdown in each of his past two.

Oddly enough, his 13.0 yards per catch this season is his best

since he averaged 13.3 as a rookie (when he had only 20 catches).

He promised better days ahead, especially if Smith can snap out of

his early season funk.

While fans at Candlestick Park last week chanted “We want Carr!”

in an attempt to get backup David Carr on the field, Davis made

sure he told coach Mike Singletary, “I want Smith.”

“He’s a hard worker. He wants to excel. He wants to be good at

what he does,” Davis said. “He has a lot of pressure riding on him.

For a guy like that, you want to encourage him and push him to

exceed expectations.”

“I’m a big fan of his, and I can’t wait for the next game.”

Among active teammates, only Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Roddy White

have a higher percentage of touchdown connections. (43.2 of Ryan’s

career TD passes have gone to White, compared with 37.2 percent for

Smith and Davis).

But with their favorite route taken away, the

49ers will have to make a

transition. They will have to do it seamlessly.

“We have to make sure that we do not let teams take him away,”

Johnson said. “We need to make sure we’re still attacking them with

Vernon Davis.”

For more on the

49ers, see Daniel Brown’s Hot Read

blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers .null

The

49ers place much importance in

finding a way for Alex Smith, left, to get the ball in the hands of

tight end Vernon Davis, right.