Niner of the Week

Tight end Vernon Davis is SFI's Niner of the Week for his performance in the 49ers' 31-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Sunday standout: Davis recorded a career-high six receptions for 71 yards, leading the 49ers in both categories and also scoring San Francisco's only touchdown on a seven-yard pass from quarterback Alex Smith. Including the touchdown catch, which came on a third-and-3 play, four of Davis' receptions went for first downs, including two on San Francisco's 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Davis' longest catch of the day came on San Francisco's second possession in the first quarter when he took a pass from Smith and turned it into a 19-yard gain to get the 49ers near midfield. Running back Maurice Hicks, however, fumbled the ball away to the Saints on the next play. With 50 seconds remaining in the first half, Davis took a short pass from Smith and had eight run-after-the-catch yards before being pulled down after a 14-yard gain. Davis also kept alive the 49ers' scoring drive in its early stage by taking a third-and-3 pass from the San Francisco 27 and taking it out to the 44 for a 17-yard gain that moved the chains for the first time on the drive. That led to Davis' first touchdown of the season 13 plays later.

Season to date: After catching just four passes for 27 yards in San Francisco's first two games, and then missing the Week 4 Seattle and Week 5 Baltimore games with a partially torn knee ligament, Davis has climbed into a tie with wide receiver Darrell Jackson for second on the team with 18 receptions this year. Both players trail team leader Arnaz Battle, who has 24 receptions. Davis is averaging 9.8 yards per reception with a long gain of 31 yards, which came in Week 3 against the Steelers. He had four catches for 56 yards before being hurt in the third quarter of that game, and also had four receptions in his return to action Oct. 28 against the New York Giants.

Need to note: Davis' 13.3 average on 20 receptions last year as a rookie was the best by San Francisco's leading tight end since Brent Jones averaged 13.7 yards on 49 receptions in San Francisco's last Super Bowl championship season of 1994. Davis became the eighth player in San Francisco's 61-year history to score a touchdown the first time he touched the football as a rookie when he took a 31-yard pass into the end zone for a score against Arizona in the first quarter of last year's season opener. Davis missed six games and most of another with a cracked fibula, but returned in late November and then recorded 13 receptions in San Francisco's final four games. Included in that stretch were his career-high in receiving yards – 91 against Arizona on Dec. 24 – and his career-long reception of 52 yards for a touchdown against Green Bay on Dec. 10.

Davis says: "I just come to work and try to be a leader and lead by example as far as helping my teammates and helping this team get some wins around here. I want to go out there and catch as many balls as I can. That's what I want to do. I want to be more involved. I want to go out there and be a workhorse. Because I know if I do that, the team will be successful because I'll be doing it right around with the rest of the guys."

Looking forward: The 49ers finally are making Davis a go-to guy in their offense and that figures to only increase as the season – and his career – progresses. Davis is an every-down player who also contributes to the offense with his run blocking and ability to stretch the field down the middle with his vertical speed. With the 49ers struggling mightily on offense and their attack ranked last in the league, the team will attempt to get the ball in Davis' hands as much as possible to get the offense out of its season-long funk.

ALSO CONSIDERED: LB Patrick Willis (game-high 10 tackles, strong sideline-to-sideline play); P Andy Lee (46.9 average with 40.4 net on seven punts, three placed inside the 20, long of 59 yards); CB Nate Clements (six tackles, one pass defensed, one forced fumble that led to San Francisco's first score).

2007 NOTW LIST: Week 1: WR Arnaz Battle. Week 2: RB Frank Gore. Week 3: DE Marques Douglas. Week 4: P Andy Lee. Week 5: LB Patrick Willis. Week 6: No selection (49ers bye week). Week 7: LB Patrick Willis. Week 8: TE Vernon Davis.

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