and Daniel Brown
SANTA CLARA -- Over their past three games, 49ers tight end Vernon Davis has tallied three more catches than New England Patriots counterpart Rob Gronkowski.
Worth noting: Gronkowski hasn't played during that stretch because of a broken forearm.
Davis' lack of productivity is an alarming statistic heading into Sunday night's game in New England, where the 49ers will need all the offensive magic they can muster.
After catching six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown in Colin Kaepernick's first start at quarterback against Chicago on Nov. 19, Davis has been targeted on only five passes in the ensuing games against the New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins.
Asked Friday about Davis' near disappearance from the stat sheet, coach Jim Harbaugh said: "Whoever is open, that's who the quarterback is instructed to get the ball to. And that varies from week to week."
This is Davis' quietest three-game stretch since Shaun Hill quarterbacked the 49ers in November 2008. He had caught a pass in 58 consecutive games until none came his way Oct. 18 against Seattle. He had only a 4-yard reception in Sunday's win over the Dolphins, which followed a two-catch effort in a Dec. 2 loss at St. Louis and a shutout Nov. 25 at New Orleans.
Davis, whose five touchdown receptions share the team lead with Michael Crabtree, hasn't publicly crusaded for more action. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said this week that Davis' big play ability -- the tight end averages 13.3 yards per reception -- still commands respect from defenses.
"I'm not going to get into the X's and O's of things, but every team's different, every situation's different. I'd say that they're paying a lot of attention to him at times," Roman said. "On Kap's 50-yard run a couple of weeks ago (in St. Louis), there were 10 guys. Vernon ran that way and there were 10 guys on that side of the field. So, I think that kind of paints a picture."
"They're physical with an edge," Belichick said. "I'd say (Harbaugh) was a tough guy for a quarterback, definitely. His teams reflect that. He's a good personality, strong personality. They play that way; they play aggressively but with good temperament."
He had been doing individual drills during the week, but because there were no individual drills Friday, the receiver didn't practice at all.
That puts first-round pick A.J. Jenkins in line to play his second career NFL game. Jenkins did not have a catch in his debut against Miami last week.