Anquan Boldin was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the second round of the 2003 draft, and he had one of the most impressive debuts any player has ever enjoyed. Boldin torched the Detroit Lions for 10 catches, 217 yards, and two touchdowns on Sept. 7 of that year. And if that performance was unexpected, the game Boldin put up for the San Francisco 49ers 10 years and one day later was just as remarkable.
In his first game for the 49ers, a 34-28 win over the Green Bay Packers, Boldin grabbed 13 passes from Colin Kaepernick for 208 yards and a touchdown, and he proved to be the perfect receiver for Jim Harbaugh's team -- productive, consistent and very tough. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Boldin became the first player to gain over 100 yards receiving in his first game for three different teams -- he also grabbed seven passes for 110 yards in his first game for the Baltimore Ravens in 2010.
"They kept letting him get him open, and he played like a grown man today," Kaepernick said of his new favorite receiver after the game. "He made plays even when he shouldn’t have. So if he plays like that, he’s going to get the ball even more."
Boldin, who was a key cog for the Ravens in their successful quest for a Lombardi Trophy last season, gave the 49ers all they could handle in the Super Bowl. When the Ravens decided that Boldin was too rich for their blood at $6 million guaranteed for 2013, they traded him to the 49ers for a sixth-round draft pick. And so, the same guy who caught six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in the Ravens' 34-31 Super Bowl win over the 49ers, was now dominating the Packers' defense for those same 49ers.
“Not the type of memories that I have today," Bolsin said when asked if he expected this type of performance. "I expected to come out and play well. We practiced well over the last couple of weeks, getting prepared for Green Bay. I thought our coach did a great job game-planning. This entire offseason, we knew they were going to come in ready to play because of what happened in the playoffs, so we had to come in ready to match their intensity. I thought we did that as a team.”
Boldin's day was especially important for a San Francisco offense beset by injuries to Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, not to mention the fact that the franchise admitted defeat on 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins and traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs for fellow disappointing receiver Jon Baldwin. Baldwin was inactive for this game, but the losses weren't noticeable. Kaepernick didn't just throw for over 300 yards for the first time in his career -- he broke the 400-yard barrier and finished with 412 yards through the air.
“Real good, just as you would expect," Harbaugh said on Aug. 21 about how Boldin was fitting in. "Outstanding in advice and in action. Always willing to take the time to mentor. But yet, he’s also, he’s also real serious and focused on his job and takes great pride in his effort and his job so that’s why he’s both been positive as a mentor and as an example.”
Boldin's work was clear. Reports indicated that he and Kaepernick enjoyed an outstanding chemistry from the start, and what quarterback wouldn't appreciate a receiver so willing to go over the middle and jump into trouble to make contested catches?
Baltimore's Joe Flacco certainly missed Boldin on Thursday night in the Ravens' 49-27 loss to the Denver Broncos. Forced to play catchup against Peyton Manning and his amazing seven-touchdown performance, Flacco could have used Boldin over and over, but he had spackle additions Brandon Stokely and Dallas Clark blowing plays, and an injury to Jacoby Jones greatly limited his ability to make shot plays downfield. One doesn't usually criticize the Ravens' excellent front office, but in sending Boldin out the door over a few million dollars, they, in retrospect, certainly seem pennywise and pound-foolish.
“It feels great to have him," Harbaugh said after the game. "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.”