Over the past three days I’ve watched and re-watched highlights of Sunday’s Super Bowl. It’s a yearly exercise I go through to cope with the end of football. These are dark, depressing times, and we need to lean on each other to get through the first Sunday of the offseason (true story: one offseason I felt so lost and empty in February that I actually started to watch NASCAR on Sundays to fill the void…a low point that still brings me deep shame).

As I’ve done that, I’ve also taken that process of observation further beyond just Sunday and to the playoffs as a whole. And I keep arriving at one bit of Ravens awesomeness that’s being a little overlooked amid the overwhelming awesome that was Joe Flacco and Jacboy Jones. It goes by the name of Anquan Boldin.

Boldin started Super Bowl XLVII by doing this in the first quarter…

And then he did this…

That was a 13-yard touchdown catch, and he finished with 104 receiving yards on six catches. It became clear early that Joe Flacco and Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell recognized Boldin’s ability to create matchup problems in the 49ers secondary with his combination of bulk and speed, as he was targeted often. He finished with 10 targets, and including the regular season (Boldin appeared in 19 total games this year), it was only the sixth time he saw double digit targets.

But going back further, the contrast between Boldin during the regular season and Boldin during Baltimore’s playoff run is striking. Let’s do this numbers style:

  • He averaged 17.3 yards per catch during the playoffs, and 14.2 during the regular season.
  • Throughout his 15 regular-season games there was only one week when he had 100 or more receiving yards. In four playoff games (the equivalent of a quarter of the regular season) he had two 100-yard games.
  • That resulted in an average of 95 yards per game in the playoffs (380 overall), after he set a pace of 61.4 per week during the regular season.
  • Lastly, Boldin’s four post-season touchdowns matched his regular-season total.

If we take Boldin’s per game post-season receiving average and prorate it over a 16-game season, he would have finished with 1,520 yards. That’s 599 more yards than his actual total during the season this year (921), and that hypothetical total would be a career high.