One of the most astute trades of the 2013 offseason could possibly have been discussed on a family holiday.
Following Baltimore’s victory over San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII, wide receiver Anquan Boldin swapped teams from the victors to the recently defeated.
In doing so he also swapped from one coach Harbaugh to another, trading Baltimore’s John for the 49ers’ Jim.
On the face of it, the trade made sense for both sides.
The Ravens needed to clear cap space and San Francisco needed a wide receiver to act as a reliable target for quarterback Colin Kaepernick. In trading away just a sixth round selection, however, Jim seemingly got the better of the trade than his brother.
In 2012, Boldin had topped the team charts in terms of receptions (65) and yards (921); had financial constraints not been an issue he would almost certainly still be in Baltimore. The former Arizona Cardinal was a key figure in the Ravens’ success and brought his ‘A’ game to the postseason. Two touchdowns and a franchise-record 145 receiving yards in the Wild Card win over Indianapolis was followed up by six receptions for 104 yards in the Super Bowl triumph.
He is no stranger to performing well on the big scene, however, having pulled in eight passes for 84 yards in the Cardinals Super Bowl XLIII loss to Pittsburgh. Earlier that campaign, in his first postseason game, he hauled in a 71 yard touchdown pass in the Wild Card game victory over the Falcons.
In the absence of Michael Crabtree for much of the season through injury, the 49ers needed Boldin to deliver this season. His debut was sensational as he caught 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. Over the course of the season he has proven to be a reliable target for Kaepernick, accounting for 85 catches, 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns. Of the Kaepernick’s 21 touchdown passes this year, 20 were shared between Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis. This stat alone highlights his importance to the 49ers offense.
On Saturday in Carolina, the veteran receiver once again came to the fore in a tough postseason road game. Having grabbed three passes for 38 yards in the win over Green Bay, Boldin was superb against the Panthers. His eight receptions for 136 yards were a key factor as San Francisco secured a relatively comfortable win and booked a place in the NFC Championship game in Seattle next weekend.
With Crabtree’s reintegration into the offense, San Francisco has now three genuine weapons in the passing game again for Kaepernick to use. All three will need to be at the top of their game next week if the 49ers are to move the ball effectively against a Seahawks defense that was ranked first overall in giving up just 273.6 yards per game in the regular season. The Saints proved in the Divisional round that moving the ball through the air at C-Link Field is possible; for the 49ers to progress they may need to move the ball as effectively.
Do not expect Boldin to shy away from the limelight as the intensity of the games increase. Past performances suggest that, as the stakes get bigger then so does his ability to produce game winning outcomes. Two more big performances stand between him and the chance to join a very elite club with the likes of Ken Norton junior and Deion Sanders: consecutive Super Bowl triumphs with different teams. Watch this space with interest!