Anquan Boldin bolsters 49ers' offense

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
12:01
AM ET
Anquan Boldin AP Photo/Ben MargotIn his first game with the 49ers, Anquan Boldin had 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown.


SAN FRANCISCO -- Donte Whitner remembers obsessing over Anquan Boldin just seven months ago.

As Whitner and the San Francisco 49ers’ defense prepared for the Baltimore Ravens prior to the Super Bowl, the task of covering Boldin kept coming up.

“He’s one of the toughest guys in the league to game plan for,” Whitner said. “He’s a receiver. He’s a tight end. He’s a running back. He’s smart. He’s everything. … The idea that he’s on our side is relieving. We are already seeing what he can do. To see him and [Colin Kaepernick] on the same side is amazing. They are going to do great things.”

In a game in which the feisty Green Bay Packers were bound and determined not to let the legs of Kaepernick beat them, Kaepernick sent both the Packers and the rest of the NFL a clear message: He is not a read-option pony. He strong-armed his way into giving the 49ers a 34-28 Week 1 win over the Packers in a game that had a January feel despite the warm September Bay Area sun.

Kaepernick, he of 11 career NFL starts, threw for a career-high 412 yards and added three touchdown throws on 27-of-39 passing. Kaepernick was not intercepted. He added 22 yards rushing on seven carries. In the playoffs last season, Kaepernick had a quarterback record 181 rushing yards against the Packers.

Green Bay’s offseason was spent dedicated to stopping the read-option attack. The defensive staff even went down to Texas A&M, where Heisman winner Johnny Manziel excelled under the scheme, to bone up on slowing Kaepernick. Next time, the Packers might have to go school to school to find a way to stop the Kaepernick-Boldin combination.

Boldin had a stunning San Francisco debut. He had 13 catches for 208 yards. It seems like every yard of it came in the clutch, including a 15-yard catch on fourth-and-2 with 2:13 to go to set up the final three points of the game.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Boldin caught five passes of least 15 yards downfield Sunday, his most in a game in five seasons.

Kaepernick and Boldin had the chemistry of a quarterback-receiver tandem that has been together for five years, not a couple of months. Boldin’s thoughts on his chemistry with his new quarterback?

“We’re getting there. … I think the more we play together, the better we will be,” he said.

Added San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh: “[Kaepernick] was precision-like, and a fabulous game by him. Fabulous game by Anquan Boldin. … It’s the way they’ve been practicing. It’s the way they’ve been playing.”

It is clear Boldin is going to be a story in San Francisco in 2013. The 49ers received Boldin from Baltimore for the pittance of a sixth-round pick. Some joked that Boldin was a get-well-soon gift from Ravens coach John Harbaugh to his little brother after the Ravens’ Super Bowl win. They are laughing in the Bay Area now.

“I don’t know, but somebody, somewhere might have made a boo-boo,” San Francisco offensive lineman Alex Boone said when asked his thoughts of getting Boldin for such a low price.

Boone said Boldin fit right in with the entire team his first day of offseason workouts.

"He’s a leader," Boone said. "Great addition."

For a team with few questions and big Super Bowl hopes, there was concern about the receiving crew after serious offseason injuries to Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. Crabtree might be ready late in the season and Manningham might be back next month. On Sunday, Kaepernick and Boldin showed there isn't much to worry about.

It is paramount to note that Kaepernick’s connection did not stop with Boldin. He and tight end Vernon Davis connected six times for 98 yards and for two touchdowns.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Davis caught all four passes for 74 yards from Kaepernick on play-action fakes. Both touchdowns came on such plays. Davis had 81 of his 98 yards from the slot. The 49ers were hoping to use him somewhat as a receiver. This is clear chemistry and a continuance of the postseason, when Davis had 12 catches. In the final six games of the regular season, Kaepernick and Davis connected just six times.

Boldin and Davis were outlets for Kaepernick to show Green Bay that he can succeed if the run is taken away. Kaepernick completed 69 percent of his passes and threw for 350 yards and two touchdowns from the pocket Sunday. In the playoffs, Kaepernick completed a career-low 55 percent of his passes from the pocket.

Whitner said Sunday’s game was a perfect example of Kaepernick getting a team the way he has to. If it is by air, so be it. If it’s by the ground, that’s fine, too. Whitner predicts Kaepernick will be the NFL’s first 4,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard runner this season. “Mark it down,” Whitner said. “There are going to be days he beats teams with his legs.”

It was a tough lesson for Green Bay to learn. Kaepernick and his new friend, Anquan Boldin, have also sent a message to the rest of the NFL -- the 49ers’ offense will win games any way it has to in 2013.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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