SAN FRANCISCO -- One of the best games by a tight end in NFL history is proof the San Francisco 49ers may need to go get themselves another receiving option.
Just think how good quarterback Colin Kaepernick could look with a full complement of weapons. Vernon Davis’ 180 receiving yards in San Francisco’s 32-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday was tied for the third-most yards by a tight end in the NFL in the past 20 years. It was another indication that there is nothing wrong with Kaepernick, who had thrown for fewer than 180 yards in each of the previous four weeks after passing for a career-high 412 yards in Week 1 against Green Bay.
“Vernon, when he plays like this, he doesn’t have to say anything,” Kaepernick said. “Everybody on the team feels it. I know it, the coaches know it, and we’ve got to put the ball in his hands.”
The problem for the 49ers is that Kaepernick has only Davis and receiver Anquan Boldin. That why the team has been linked to receivers such as Hakeem Nicks, Josh Gordon and Kenny Britt. With Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham injured, the 49ers don’t have another legitimate, reliable receiving option. While Davis went bonkers, doing 171 yards of his damage in the first half Sunday, Boldin was held in check.
Boldin finished with three catches for 28 yards. Just 72 of Kaepernick's 252 passing yards went to targets other than Davis. While Davis had eight catches, six players combined for Kaepernick’s other eight completions. Davis was the target on just three of Kaepernick’s 14 incomplete passes. Kaepernick, who saw his offense fail to get a first down on its first four drives of the game, didn’t connect with a wide receiver until 1:20 remained in the first half.
While the 49ers and Davis should celebrate this magnificent performance, it is another reminder that this team needs more receiving help. Because if they get that help, the 49ers can win the Super Bowl. It’s that simple.
This offense -- which grinded out 149 yards on the ground and which has scored 101 points during a three-game winning streak -- can be wicked if it is truly multidimensional. If not, all it can do is try to move the ball on the ground and hope either Boldin or Davis goes off.
It has worked so far, but one of these weeks both Davis and Boldin will be taken away. Then what?
Manningham (knee) might come off the physically unable to perform list and be able to start practicing this week. Once he starts practicing, the 49ers will have a three-week window to activate him. Last week, San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said Crabtree, who suffered a torn Achilles in May, might be ready to play in mid-November. He could come back for the Nov. 17 game at New Orleans that could have huge NFC playoff ramifications.
But there are no guarantees either player will be back anytime soon. There is also no telling how quickly either player would knock off the rust. It’s reasonable to assume the 49ers will be at full strength in December. Crabtree would instantly be a top target and make Boldin more valuable because he would see fewer double-teams. (He said last week this is the most double coverage he’s seen in his career.) Boldin can be a major weapon as a No. 2 receiver. Manningham also would give the 49ers much-needed depth. The team’s current No. 2 and No. 3 receivers, Kyle Williams and Jon Baldwin, each had one catch Sunday. That is not going to cut it.
That brings us to the trade dilemma: Do the 49ers sit and wait for their injured players to come back, or do they get aggressive and make a deal?
You could make an argument for both sides. But seeing Sunday’s display might tempt the 49ers to load up now and worry later about having too much depth or losing a draft pick. If San Francisco adds the right receiver, Kaepernick would have more options in the immediate future, and the team could be nearly unstoppable come playoff time.
CBS Sports reported Sunday that the 49ers are considering trading for Nicks. The Giants are 0-6, and Nicks probably will leave as a free agent. He’d likely be a rental for the 49ers. They have several contracts to address in the near future with free agents. But he could be a special rental.
ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter has reported the 49ers have considered acquiring Gordon from Cleveland, but that likely won’t happen because of the soon-to-return statuses of Manningham and Crabtree. Britt, whom the 49ers will face in Tennessee next week, is also on the block. Gordon and Britt both have had off-field problems, and with the 49ers already dealing with the Aldon Smith situation, they may not want to add another player with issues.
Nicks might make the most sense. There are financial and draft-pick questions to be answered, but there is no question he’d make the 49ers better for the rest of the season and take pressure off of Kaepernick.
Led by Davis Sunday, the 49ers showed they can be dangerous. But Super Bowl winners need to be more than dangerous. They need to be multilayered. That’s why adding offensive weapons has to be tempting for San Francisco.