We talked earlier about the San Francisco 49ers being a running team and the potential impact of Frank Gore, but the key to the Green Bay Packers’ chances on Sunday is stopping tight end Vernon Davis.
Davis had three poor seasons to open his career, but has blossomed into a big time playmaker under 49ers coach Mike Singletary. A physical specimen with blazing speed for a tight end, Davis has posted 45 receptions, 493 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Those stats make him the 49ers leading receiver and the NFL leader in touchdowns by a tight end.
The switch seemed to flip for Davis after he was sent to the locker room during a game by Singletary last season, and then called out by the coach in his post-game press conference. Davis committed a personal foul penalty during a 21-point loss to Seattle, and Singletary singled Davis out for being a selfish player.
Davis has been both a model citizen and a game changer since the incident.
Fortunately, the Packers have fared well against some very good tight ends in recent weeks. The credit for that goes primarily to Charles Woodson, who, in the absence of linebacker Brandon Chillar, has been assigned the duty of covering Tampa Bay’s Kellen Winslow and Dallas’ Jason Witten.
Woodson held Witten to five receptions for 47 yards and no touchdowns. Winslow recorded four receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown, but Winslow’s touchdown came on a broken coverage that wasn’t Woodson’s fault.
Chillar will be back on Sunday, but Packers coach Mike McCarthy says he will be limited to special teams, meaning Woodson will likely draw the assignment of stopping Davis.
Davis may be better than Winslow and Witten, but Woodson has no peer.