“They're wary of getting beat by Vernon Davis,” Harbaugh said. “I think that's the biggest, greatest share.”
Davis' teammates have been the biggest beneficiaries.
Michael Crabtree had a career-best 1,105 yards receiving, including a single-game high 172 yards on eight receptions in the win over Arizona. Crabtree is San Francisco's first wide receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season since Terrell Owens in 2003.
Tight end Delanie Walker also had a career-high 344 yards receiving to go with three touchdowns on 21 catches. He is quick to heap praise on what Davis does each game, no matter how many passes his teammate catches.
After breaking his jaw in two places at Seattle on Dec. 24, 2011, Walker remembers watching from the sideline as Davis caught seven passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Saints last January, including the final one on a play called “Vernon Post” that allowed a recovered Walker to return for the NFC title game.
“Vernon makes crucial-moment catches like that,” Walker said. “When I saw that catch, I was down there on the field running on the field and yelling. I was probably more excited than he was, because now I had a chance to play in the playoffs. I looked at it and I thanked him, `Thank you, bro. Now I can come back.“'
Davis added 112 yards receiving and two TDs in San Francisco's 20-17 overtime loss to the Giants a week later, when Crabtree's one catch for 3 yards accounted for all of the production from 49ers wide receivers. But Davis also had a pair of 15-yard personal foul penalties in the game, one for jumping up onto a podium during a TD celebration and another for pushing New York players in a post-play scrum.
That's still far from the volatile manner Davis displayed so often in his first few years after the 49ers drafted him sixth overall out of Maryland in 2006.
Davis learned from his biggest blunder back in 2008, when former coach Mike Singletary sent the young, emotional tight end to the locker room early during a game against Seattle. Davis then became the focus of Singletary's infamous “I want winners!” rant following the 34-13 home loss.
Davis admits he “didn't know how to handle things” those days. He said he was trying to mimic players such as Owens, a comparable talent in athleticism at their respective positions, instead of creating his own path to 49ers stardom.
About the only selfish hiccup Davis has had this season was of a playful nature. In San Francisco's 30-22 win at Green Bay in Week 1, he failed in trying to dunk over the crossbar after a touchdown. Teammates teased him afterward — so he shot the ball over the crossbar the next week against Detroit.
Now Davis only hopes for another chance to celebrate in the end zone in these playoffs.
“I'll just wait for my opportunities. I'm sure they will come,” he said. “I said the same thing last year, even though I didn't get the ball as much as I wanted last year, I said my opportunities will come. And maybe I'll get them this week. But you never know. If we can continue to get Crabtree involved and he can help us the way he did last week, then I'm all for it.”