Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam
September 27, 2012
He is no longer Joe Flacco's favorite target, but Anquan Boldin is still part of this offense.
During the first three games of the 2012 season, it felt as if Anquan Boldin was a forgotten man in the Baltimore offense. Second-year wide receiver Torrey Smith was playing and producing like a Pro Bowl player. Offseason addition Jacoby Jones was also grabbing long receptions down the sidelines. Ray Rice continued being arguably the most dangerous dual-threat running back in the NFL. And then there was tight end and steady slot specialist Dennis Pitta, who averaged 10 targets a game over the first three weeks of the season. All that was left for Boldin, who is in the third year of the four-year deal he signed after the Ravens acquired him from the Arizona Cardinals, was table scraps. He entered Thursday night's game against the Cleveland Browns fourth on the team with 16 targets and fifth in receiving yards with 118 yards. His 10 receptions were just four more than facemask-bending All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach.
But on a soggy night when the Ravens struggled to get Rice going on the ground and couldn't seem to pull away from the young Browns, quarterback Joe Flacco turned to the grizzled veteran, who at 31, made his NFL debut 10 years ago while most of his fellow Ravens receivers were still popping pimples.
"When we were struggling a little bit, we looked for him," Flacco later said. "And he came up big for us."
After catching just one pass for 6 yards in the first half, Boldin took over the game in the second. In a performance that was reminiscent of his monster game against the Cardinals last season, Boldin caught nearly everything thrown his way. Flacco targeted him 10 times and Boldin brought down eight of them for 125 yards. No catch was bigger than his 28-yard reception late in the fourth quarter. Boldin ran a fade route down the right sideline and got enough separation from cornerback Dimitri Patterson to come down with it. The catch helped the Ravens tick off enough time to eventually be saved by the bell.
"[It was] just my number being called at that time," he said. "The thing about this offense is you don't know when your number is going to be called. So when it does get called, you want to make a play."
Flacco has many qualified options to throw to when he drops back to pass, and he has done a pretty good job spreading the ball around -- and the team as a whole has also cut down on the drops. Credit should go to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, too, for doing his best to keep players like Boldin, Jones, Leach and tight end Ed Dickson involved in the game plan. It's hard to argue with the results. Flacco entered Thursday night's game second in the NFL in passing yards and added 356 more against the Browns. And the Ravens now have 24 pass plays of 20 or more yards, a total that leads the league. But even as they try to do the 100-yard dash up and down the field in this no-huddle, quick-strike attack, there will be times like Thursday night when the weather gets nasty, the offensive line faces resistance and the Ravens are in need of a big catch. Boldin showed Flacco again that he should know who to call.