Game notebook: Davis knows how to take a hit

Vernon Davis took a massive, head-hunting hit from Arizona safety Robert Griffith on Sunday that will make all the highlight reels. But not only did Davis live to talk about it afterward, he laughed it off after another productive afternoon for the rookie tight end.

Davis was drilled by Griffith late in the second quarter after making a 29-yard reception over the middle. It was a devastating hit that had Davis crashing violently to the ground, and Griffith was hit with a personal foul penalty for helmet-to-helmet contact that took the ball down to the Arizona 11-yard line.

But Davis popped right back up after the hit, and after the game, he said it wasn't nearly the brain-bashing blow it appeared to be.

"The hit?" Davis said, looking absolutely no worse for wear. "I got hit harder than that in college. He didn't hit me hard enough. I told him that he could have done a better job than that. That might have looked like something, but it wasn't anything."

But Davis certainly is turning into something. The heralded rookie, after having his debut NFL season hampered by a broken right leg that forced him to miss six games, has come on strong during December now that he's back to full strength.

After recording touchdown receptions in San Francisco's two previous games, Davis had four catches for a team-high 91 yards Sunday, including a 44-yard catch-and-run on a third-and-11 play in the fourth quarter that set up San Francisco's final touchdown in a 26-20 loss.

"I'm all the way back," Davis said. "If I'm not, I'm still going to play like I am. God has already blessed me with the ability and the genes to go out and perform well, but it's all about being smart - knowing your assignments and where you have to be. I just have to keep working and keep learning. The smarter I get, the better I get."

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Running back Frank Gore scored on a two-yard run in the third quarter and a one-yard run in the fourth quarter. He now has eight rushing touchdowns on the season, the most by a 49ers running back since Garrison Hearst had eight in 2002.

It's the third time in Gore's career that he has had two rushing touchdowns in a game. He had two at Arizona in the season opener this year and two at St. Louis late last season.

Gore entered the game as the leading rusher in the NFC and now has 1,542 yards rushing after picking up 51 yards on 11 carries. He needs 29 yards in San Francisco's season finale next week at Denver to set a franchise record with most yards in a season.

Hearst currently holds the team record with 1,570 yards rushing in 1998. Gore now has the second-best season total in San Francisco history, passing Roger Craig (1,502 yards in 1988) on the list Sunday.

Gore also tied his career high with six receptions for 35 yards against the Cardinals, raising his season totals to a team-high 59 catches for 453 yards.

Gore now has 1,995 combined yards rushing and receiving. He needs 111 combined yards next week to break Hearst's single season record of 2,105 total yards (1,570 rushing and 535 receiving) set in 1998.

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Running back Maurice Hicks had a career-high 64-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter, besting a 59-yard return he had vs. St. Louis in September. Hicks also had a 38-yard kickoff return later in the fourth quarter.

"Both the returns I had were big returns," Hicks said. "We had called them before but had (touchbacks). When we got that play going, it opened up. Those guys did a great job up front."

On his 64-yard return, which came after Arizona had gone ahead 23-13 with a Neil Rackers field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter, Hicks might have had an opportunity to go all the way down the right sideline. But with Rackers in front of him, Hicks cut it back inside where Arizona's pursuit dragged him down.

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--- Defensive end Roderick Green registered his first NFL two-sack game with a nine-yard sack of Matt Leinart in the second quarter and a nine-yard sack of Kurt Warner in the fourth quarter.

--- The 49ers scored on their opening possession for the seventh time this season when kicker Joe Nedney culminated the 49ers first drive with a 49-yard field goal. Nedney also had a 32-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining in the first half.

--- Tight end Eric Johnson, linebacker Derek Smith and offensive tackle Adam Snyder returned to the lineup after missing time due to injury. Johnson started on offense in a two-tight end alignment. Smith did not start due to the 49ers opening in a nickel defense. Snyder entered the game at left tackle after Jonas Jennings left with a dislocated shoulder and played there the rest of the game.

--- Linebacker Brandon Moore and safety Keith Lewis each tied for game-high honors with 11 tackles. Making his first start of the season at defensive tackle in place of Ronald Fields, who broke his right arm in practice Wednesday, Isaac Sopoaga also played well with eight tackles, seven of them solo.

--- Tony Wragge made his first NFL start at center in place of Eric Heitmann, who is out with a broken leg suffered in the Seattle game last Thursday.

--- Wide receiver Arnaz Battle tied a career-high with a game-high seven receptions for 55 yards. Battle also had seven catches in a loss at Tennessee last season.

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