Editor's note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Saints matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m. (FOX), at the Superdome.
49ers TE Vernon Davis vs. Saints FS Malcolm JenkinsTale of the tape
Davis (85): 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, seventh season, Maryland
Jenkins (27): 6-foot, 204 pounds, fourth season, Ohio StateTight end Vernon Davis reappeared in the 49ers' offense Monday night when he hooked up with quarterback Colin Kaepernick for six receptions, 83 yards and a touchdown."I felt like somebody took the handcuffs off me," Davis said afterward. He had caught just nine passes for 101 yards and no touchdowns in his previous four games combined.One of the major points of emphasis for the New Orleans Saints on Sunday will be to get the handcuffs back on Davis. Or, at least, the Saints will try to prevent a repeat of Davis' dominating performance in the playoffs last season.Davis caught seven passes from Alex Smith for 180 yards and two touchdowns, including several plays in which he beat the man coverage of Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins in critical situations late in the game. Davis' 14-yard scoring catch with :09 remaining provided the winning points in the 49ers' 36-32 victory in the NFC divisional round."I'm not worried about what we did to them last season, during the postseason," Davis said. "It's just another game, pretty much."One of the oddities in last year's meeting was that then-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams left Jenkins in coverage against Davis when the 49ers had very few other weapons in the passing game.This season, the 49ers enter the game with a healthy and productive group of wide receivers, including Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams and Randy Moss. And Jenkins has graded out as the second-worst starting safety in the NFL in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus' rating system.Another big difference is Kaepernick got most of the practice snaps this week and is expected to begin the game at quarterback. Davis said he has confidence in both of the 49ers' quarterbacks."Colin, he's a leader. He's just like Alex. He's been under Alex's wing for the longest (time), so he's had a chance to learn and figure out this game," Davis said. "I'm very confident in both of them. That's just something that's always been there."Kaepernick will look to nail down the 49ers' starting job for the rest of the season with a performance similar to what he exhibited Monday night against the Bears."He went out and showed the world what he can do," Davis said. "He's gotten so much better since last year. It's like night and day. I take my hat off to him."There should be opportunities for plenty of success against the Saints defense, which ranks last in the league in total defense, last in passing defense and 31st in run defense. The opposition is averaging 321.4 yards passing and 27.3 points per game against the Saints, who have won five of their last six games.