SAN FRANCISCO -- Candlestick Park, currently gasping its last wheezy breaths, has been the scene of many extraordinary and thrilling games.

Sunday was not one of them.

Yet in terms of unforgettably breathtaking Cirque du Soleil performances, the 49ers' workmanlike 23-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams did produce one memorable picture. Two, actually.

They came courtesy of Vernon Davis, the 49ers' tight end. In the fourth quarter, he scored the 50th touchdown of his career after catching a pass from quarterback Colin Kaepernick at the Rams' 11-yard line and then ... drum roll please ... completed a stunning hurdle over confused Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins before crossing the goal line.

San Francisco 49ers’ Vernon Davis (85) runs with the ball against the St. Louis Rams in the first quarter at Candlestick Park in San Francisco,
San Francisco 49ers' Vernon Davis (85) runs with the ball against the St. Louis Rams in the first quarter at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group) ( Josie Lepe )

And that wasn't even Davis' most impressive leap of the day. In the first half, he somehow gained enough vertical air to hurdle his entire 6-foot-3, 250-pound body completely above onrushing St. Louis safety Rodney McLeod during a 20-yard gain.

Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, we give you ... the Great Vernoni!

Seriously, how many other NFL teams have this kind of act? After his grand performance, the dashing young aerialist revealed that the hurdling inspiration first struck him two weeks ago in New Orleans when he came upon a Saints defender, tried the move and succeeded.

"Pretty much my whole career, any time that I get the ball in my hands, defenders are coming for my knees and ankles," Davis said. "But it was just in the moment. At that moment, I said, 'I'm going to jump over that guy.' "


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For the record, Davis was not a hurdler in high school. He was a sprinter and high jumper (he believes his highest leap was 6 feet, 4 inches). But his athletic feats Sunday might make him consider the Olympic decathlon when he retires.

Asked to analyze Davis' form, here were the judges' scores:

"Very athletic," said Kaepernick.

"That was amazing," said offensive lineman Joe Looney.

"Stay on the ground," said wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

Boldin is a man who knows what can happen if a tackler upends a hurdling player in mid-liftoff. The hurdler can flip over and land on his noggin. It's telling that from 1982 to 1984, the 49ers employed an authentic Olympic hurdler, Renaldo Nehemiah, as a wide receiver -- but he never once tried to hurdle a tackler.

Clearly, Davis is not afraid to take the risk. Last week, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said that the rest of this season is only "for the tough." Davis could be the poster child for the quote. In more ways than one.

What? You didn't see the painful experience Davis endured in the third quarter? It happened when Davis caught a ball on an otherwise routine crossing pattern. Rams rookie safety T.J. McDonald reached around Davis to bring him down and somehow seized ...

"Oh, that tackle?" Davis said at the memory, eyes widening. "I'm still thinking about it. As soon as I got the ball, the guy was grabbing me ... uh, there. In that space. In that area."

McDonald held on for many yards until Davis could finally take the pain no longer -- he doesn't wear a protective cup -- and went down, grabbing "that area."

After a few minutes, the Great Vernoni arose with his normal baritone voice intact, as well as his soaring ability.

Davis' four catches for 82 yards were just one example of how the struggling 49ers passing game was finally able to find a groove Sunday. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree returned from his Achilles injury to make a couple grabs. Boldin was his reliable self (nine catches, 98 yards). Kaepernick had his second highest passing yardage (275) of the season and his most since the Green Bay opener.

The major highlights, though, were still created by Davis -- who with Crabtree's return appeared to have more room to operate. "Things felt different with him out there," Davis admitted. "I have to get back in and watch the film on how those guys were playing us."

He'd be advised to watch all the plays except for the aforementioned McDonald tackle, which caused approximately 100 percent of males in attendance to groan when they saw the video replay. Yet even after the game, Davis swore he will not change his practice of playing without a cup.

"No, no, no," said the Great Vernoni. "It slows you down. I'll take my chances."

Never argue with an improvisational artist.

Contact Mark Purdy at mpurdy@mercurynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MercPurdy.