SAN FRANCISCO -- As the 49ers made their stretch-run push to the Super Bowl last year with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, tight end Vernon Davis was seldom a big part of the offense.
Davis caught a combined six passes in the 49ers' final regular-season games, and there were concerns about a lack of chemistry with Kaepernick.
Those concerns vanished Sunday during the 49ers' 32-20 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park.
Davis caught eight passes for a career-high-tying 180 yards and two touchdowns, and he did almost all of his damage in the first half when he had seven catches for 171 yards and both scores.
"It's just one of those days," Davis said. "When you're in the zone, it's like you're high. You can't come down, can't come down. He was able to find me several times. We started to click. We were on the same page. Because that's what it's about, it's about being on the same page, just having that chemistry with the quarterback."
Davis had 180 receiving yards on seven catches against New Orleans on Jan. 14, 2012, in a 36-32 playoff victory at Candlestick Park when Alex Smith was his quarterback.
Kaepernick completed 16 of 29 passes for 252 yards, two touchdowns and one interception with a passer rating of 92.9. He targeted Davis 11 times.
"We knew he'd be a mismatch," Kaepernick said. "He always is. He came to play today. He did a great job.
"Vernon's open most of the time. The more we get the ball in his hands and let him use his speed, the better."
The 49ers had a balanced attack, as Frank Gore rushed for 101 yards on 25 carries.
Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer went 25-for-41 for 298 yards with two interceptions, two touchdowns and a 79.1 rating. Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald caught six passes for 117 yards and a touchdown.
The 49ers improved to 4-2 and remained one game behind 5-1 Seattle in the NFC West. The Cardinals fell to 3-3 and dropped into a tie for third place with St. Louis, paying the price for four costly turnovers.
"We have to find ways to win these games," Cardinals offensive tackle Eric Winston said. "Until we do, we're just going to be a team that's close."
Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell was carted off the field on a stretcher with just under five minutes left in the game after suffering an injury.
"He left the field with movement and the feeling was coming back," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "He had extreme numbness."
What the 49ers said
"I had to deal with that all through training camp. Lining up man-to-man with a guy like that all through training camp, when I get out in a football game and play other tight ends, it makes it a lot easier. I know firsthand what he can do, and today is just a small glimpse of what he can do. He's a No. 1 threat on any offense he plays on." -- SS Donte Whitner, on 49ers TE Vernon Davis, who caught eight passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
What the Cardinals said
"Going into this, we said we had to have 60 minutes and come out swinging every time. I thought we held up our end of the bargain as far as that goes in the offensive line, and I thought we came out like a ball of fire. We put together two good drives, especially here on that team. Obviously the turnovers at the end of the day killed us, and we've got to figure out a way to stop giving the ball away. It's impossible to win in this league whether it's fumbles, interceptions, sacks or whatever it is. We've got to stop giving them the ball. Until we do, we are not going to win tight division games." -- OT Eric Winston, lamenting the Cardinals' four turnovers in a loss to San Francisco.
What we learned about the 49ers
1. Tight end Vernon Davis and quarterback Colin Kaepernick have put their chemistry problems behind them. Davis caught eight passes for a career-high-tying 180 yards and two touchdowns Sunday against Arizona. Kaepernick targeted him 11 times, and Davis can expect the ball to keep coming his way, especially with wide receiver Michael Crabtree still recovering from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. "It was a beautiful thing, but we can't stop here," Davis said. "We have to keep on going, keep on ascending."
2. Rookie free safety Eric Reid is headed for stardom. Reid, a first-round pick out of LSU, intercepted his third pass of the season against Arizona and also recovered a fumble late in the game. "He's blessed with a lot of ability," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "He's very sharp. Learns very well. Doesn't repeat mistakes."
What we learned about the Cardinals
1. Until they stop committing so many turnovers, the Cardinals will never be a legitimate threat to beat the top teams and make a playoff run. Quarterback Carson Palmer threw two more interceptions Sunday, giving him 11 for the season, while wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and running back Alfonso Smith lost second-half fumbles. "We're not going to beat anyone on the road turning it over four times," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. "We had the game in hand, going to take the lead and tried to make too much out of something and we fumbled the football. Then when we had a chance to get back in it, we fumbled on second-and-1. You're not going to beat anybody that way with self-inflicted wounds."
2. The Cardinals offense is more than just Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald, although that's still the most dangerous and consistent component. Fitzgerald caught six passes for 117 yards and a 75-yard touchdown, but Palmer completed passes to seven other Cardinals. Wide receiver Michael Floyd caught five passes for 44 yards and a touchdown, and wideout Brittan Golden caught a 53-yard strike, setting up a touchdown. Running back Andre Ellington caught five passes for 36 yards, and tight end Rob Housler four for 32. "We're still trying to get better," Palmer said. "It is a work in progress. Trying to get more guys involved in the passing game."