Emotional 49ers TE Davis makes most of first playoff game

SAN FRANCISCO -- Vernon Davis ran to the sideline with tears streaming down his face and into the arms of coach Jim Harbaugh, the tight end's smeared eye black washing away six years of bad memories.

And in an instant, he forever etched his name into San Francisco 49ers lore.

Mariucci's déjà vu

Niners tight end Vernon Davis' winning touchdown catch on Saturday had a familiar feel for former 49ers coach and current NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci. More ...

Davis caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith with 9 seconds remaining, lifting the 49ers to a thrilling 36-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Saturday to advance to the NFC Championship Game. San Francisco will play the winner of the Green Bay Packers-New York Giants game.

"Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games, and that's all I kept telling myself over and over and over, 'Vernon, you got to step up, the team needs you,' " Davis said.

The play, which Davis branded "The Grab," almost never happened.

Davis revealed earlier this week that he "almost wanted to quit" at times while adjusting to Harbaugh's complicated playbook, which has a heavy demand on tight ends. He also kept quiet throughout the season while his receptions dwindled, taking more of a blocking role than the one that turned him into one of the NFL's best catching tight ends.

Unhappy with his team only ahead 17-14 at the half despite the defense forcing four turnovers, Davis delivered a speech in the locker room that his teammates won't soon forget.

"He got a little emotional on us on offense and got after us a little bit," Smith said. "Great to see him come out in the second half and really just stay patient."

Davis finished with seven catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

"One shot. That was the message," Davis said. "You only get one shot. If you don't take advantage of it, you go home. There was a lot of fire within me at that moment, and something just hit and I had to let it out. When you're a leader on this team, that's what you're supposed to do. You're supposed to step up, lead the team in times like that."

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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