Boldin's big day magnifies Ravens' woes

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
10:41
AM ET

While I don't plan to run a weekly scorecard on this, here's your Week 1 results ...

Anquan Boldin: 13 catches, 208 yards and one touchdown.

Ravens wide receivers: 15 catches for 215 yards and one touchdown.

Winner: Boldin.

It's easy after one game to pile on the Baltimore Ravens and general manager Ozzie Newsome for trading Boldin, but I believed the defending Super Bowl champions would regret the move back in March. Boldin's monster game just magnifies the rare misstep by the Ravens' front office and the deficiencies of Baltimore's passing attack. The season-opening loss in Denver showed the Ravens need someone who can make clutch catches, whether it's at the goal line or on third down. The receiver the Ravens needed was Boldin.

Instead, San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh couldn't help gushing about the offseason gift from his brother John.

“It feels great to have him,” Jim Harbaugh said after the 49ers' win against the Packers. “We did give up a draft choice for him and [we're] paying him a lot of money, but definitely think he’s worth every penny. I think he’s worth every penny.”

To be fair, the Ravens shipped Boldin to the 49ers for a sixth-round pick when they had tight end Dennis Pitta ready to become Joe Flacco's next security blanket. The Ravens didn't want to restructure a veteran's contract (like Terrell Suggs or Haloti Ngata) to keep Boldin, and this organization has made a living on parting ways with older players just before they decline (see Derrick Mason, Todd Heap and Kelly Gregg, to name a few).

In the Ravens' minds, the $6 million in salary cap space created by trading Boldin allowed the Ravens to add three defensive starters in March -- outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, safety Michael Huff and defensive lineman Chris Canty -- who accounted for $5.35 million in cap space this year. But, as one team official in the AFC has repeatedly told me, you can always find a way to make cap room for a player if you really want him. It just costs you down the line.

My contention six months ago and now is the Ravens didn't have a suitable backup plan at wide receiver when they got rid of Boldin. I didn't see Jacoby Jones consistently moving the chains. I didn't see Tandon Doss making that tough catch in the red zone. It took a while, but Flacco had finally built a trust with Boldin that was apparent in last season's championship run.

Ravens fans will keep an eye on Boldin's numbers throughout the season, and it obviously won't be like this every week. Boldin caught five passes of least 15 yards downfield Sunday, his most in a game in five seasons. He had one of those top-five career games. But, as those who follow the Ravens know, it's not about gaudy receiving numbers for Boldin. It's about when he makes those catches.

In his 49ers' debut, Boldin caught all four passes thrown his way on third down and converted all four. He also had two receptions in the red zone and one on fourth down in the fourth quarter, which sealed the game. The 49ers know all about Boldin's timely catches after witnessing the key third-and-short reception in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.

Boldin isn't going to finish in the top five in receiving yards or catches like Calvin Johnson. But he's going to do all the things that helps a team win. That's why Boldin is such a big loss to the Ravens.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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