Anquan Boldin’s birthday was last week. He turned 33, and there was a cheerful sign signifying the special occasion on a TV in the locker room. Today he chatted with the media in that very same room, but he didn’t look all that cheerful. While answering questions with a black hood pulled around his face, Boldin looked tired.
It’s hard to blame him for looking or feeling fatigued, and not because of his age. Boldin probably knew what he was getting into when Michael Crabtree went down with an Achilles tear, but he probably didn’t expect his first season with the 49ers to be this challenging. Since going off for 200+ yards in Week 1 against Green Bay, he has faced double coverage … a lot.
I asked Boldin if he was ever double-teamed as often with the Ravens or the Cardinals as he has been this season.
“At times, but not as much,” Boldin said.
Boldin had a tough battle against Richard Sherman in Week 2, but the double-teams really started showing up when Vernon Davis missed the game against the Colts.
“A few weeks back, there was a difference when (Davis was) not in there. I get a lot more roll coverage, a lot more double teams. Defenses definitely try to take me out a little more,” Boldin said.
“He got doubled quite a bit last week, especially on third down,” said Greg Roman. “There’s a lot of different ways you can play doubles. He’s seeing just about all of them this year. It’s just becoming more prevalent, and to be expected, really.”
It’s to be expected not just because Boldin is still a productive player, but because the 49ers’ other receivers are a shade or two below even mediocre standards. Boldin has 26 receptions for 393 yards and two touchdowns this season. The other wideouts? 13 receptions for 112 yards and no scores … over FIVE GAMES.
“Other guys besides Anquan need to step up,” Roman said. “I think Jon Baldwin was a great example. Coverage dictated the ball goes to him against the Rams, that’s where the ball goes and he makes the play. So guys are stepping up. Kyle Williams is another guy over time that’s stepped up. It’s a constant evolution.”
The evolution has led to the 49ers throwing Baldwin out there and hoping he pulls some of the coverage away from Boldin, but that’s not happening. Roman said throwing to a guy who’s doubled is “not good for business.” But if anything, the 49ers are resting on Boldin to work his magic even against defenses that are 100% focused on taking him out of games.
“At times it’s almost like he wills things to happen. The catch he had in the game the other night, early in the game, was just another example of that. It was a good throw, low and outside, very appropriate for the leverage on the coverage and he went down and made a play most guys won’t make,” said Roman.
I asked Boldin about his approach when he has to beat two defensive backs instead of just one.
“Just work. I mean, there’s not much you can do. You can try to game plan, coaches move you around a little bit, but that’s about it,” he said.
Then he gave a look that almost said, “Please Mario, please Michael, please Trent … someone give me some help here.” He’d never say anything like that, but one wonders just how long Boldin can keep playing at a high level without a little assistance.