The search for Vernon Davis, part one

San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis caught six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown against Chicago in Colin Kaepernick's first start at quarterback.

That was in Week 11.

2012 Passer Rating Targeting TEs

Davis then had six catches for 61 yards and zero touchdowns over the 49ers' remaining six regular-season games. He disappeared from the offense as a receiver and even had one game without any receptions, snapping a streak of 58 games with at least one (update: that streak actually ended four games earlier, against Seattle).

I'm hoping to take a closer look at this subject before the 49ers face the Green Bay Packers in a divisional playoff game Saturday. To be honest, though, I'm not entirely sure why Davis isn't producing as a receiver. There are several partial explanations -- Michael Crabtree's emergence, a deeper receiving corps, the change from Alex Smith to Kaepernick -- but nothing that is ultimately very satisfying.

The chart ranks NFL quarterbacks by passer rating when targeting tight ends. Kaepernick leads the NFL. Smith ranks fifth.

That only confuses the situation further.

However, 23 of 36 qualifying quarterbacks had passer ratings in the 90s or higher when targeting tight ends. Twenty-six had Total QBR scores of at least 70, but that metric seemed more useful when applied to situations where sacks and other outcomes beyond pass attempts come into play. Passer rating measures passes only.

Davis had 10 receptions for 292 yards and four touchdowns in two playoff games last season. He had 13 receptions for 169 yards and four touchdowns through the 49ers' first three games this season.

We'll revisit this one later in the week. Your theories?