LANDOVER, Md. -- Vernon Davis staggered slowly back to the sideline after the 49ers' first possession of the second half against Washington, having lost a fumble a moment earlier while clawing for extra yards. Fed Ex Field was such a shaky place for Davis on Monday night, even though he was back playing in front of his family. One minute he was pleasing his hometown crowd. The next he was sending them for the exits early.
On a night when his quarterback needed support in quieting criticism, Davis was a pillar when the 49ers really needed him to be in a 27-6 win. He caught four passes for 70 yards, including with a 1-yard touchdown reception from Colin Kaepernick late in the third quarter that gave the 49ers an 18-point lead and all but put the win on ice during a frigid night in Landover. That came only after he had fumbled and dropped a key 20-yard pass inside Washington territory.
"This is football. Things like that happen. We don't want them to happen, but sometimes it works out that way, where you struggle," Davis said.
Davis, who grew up in the District and attended Dunbar High in Northwest Washington, looked ready to dominate from the onset after he made a 40-yard catch off a seam route in the first quarter. That set up a Phil Dawson field goal to make it 10-0.
But Davis had problems finding his rhythm. On the opening possession of the third quarter, with the 49ers leading 10-6, he fumbled after catching a third-down pass over the middle and struggling for extra yards. He dropped another 20-yard pass from Kaepernick later in the quarter.
"I didn't let my head down," Davis said. "I just said, 'I'll make up for it.' "
He stayed true to his word and stayed patient while looking for his opening. Part of it came in the middle of the third quarter, when his 20-yard catch set up the 49ers with a first-and-goal and eventual Anquan Boldin touchdown. The other part came on the Washington 1-yard line at the end of the quarter, when on a second down, Kaepernick went play-action. Davis slipped through the Washington defense untouched and caught his ninth touchdown of the year.
"Vernon is always going to fight for us," Kaepernick said.
Davis' fumble was reminiscent of his fourth-quarter fumble at Fed Ex Field in November 2011, which was his first time playing in the Washington area. Monday night was his second, and although he noted the significance of playing at home, his performance was more deeply rooted in helping Kaepernick.
"Colin, you know, he's been taking a lot of criticism," Davis said. "But one thing I like about Colin, is that he's always hanging in there."