EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — It’s not easy to single out anything about a team’s offensive performance in a game where they only score 10 points.
However, the Baltimore Ravens (1-0) had one particular offensive element that made all of the difference in their 10-9 victory over the New York Jets (0-1) on Monday Night Football.
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WR Anquan Boldin was indeed the best player on the field at New Meadowlands Stadium Monday night. He was also the exact type of game-changer the Ravens dreamed of when GM Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh went about trying to improve a team that finished 9-7 last season and snuck into the playoffs with the AFC’s final Wild Card spot.
Boldin’s numbers (7 catches, 110 yards) would be proof enough that he had made a significant difference. But a look inside those numbers makes things even more impressive.
The Ravens converted 11 of their 19 3rd down attempts in the game. Of the 11 conversions, Boldin caught three first down passes and was targeted on another play where a defensive penalty extended the drive. Boldin’s presence helped the Ravens establish a 38:32 to 21:28 advantage in Time of Possession; despite being out-rushed 116 yards to 49.
Let those numbers sink in again.
The Jets outgained the Ravens on the ground 116 yards to 49. Yet the Ravens held the ball for nearly twice as long as the Jets did in their opponents’ stadium.
That’s why the team wanted to get an Anquan Boldin this offseason.
When asked following the game if his performance was what the Ravens had hoped for in obtaining the former Pro Bowl receiver, Harbaugh was quick to respond with an emphatic “Heck yeah.” He added “I’m excited about our weapons…we’ve got guys all the way across the board that Joe (Flacco) can go to.”
The 3rd year QB knew exactly why his new favorite target was so effective on 3rd down, saying “Anquan is just a big, physical guy who goes up for the ball.”
That’s not the end of the impression Boldin left on the football field. On the three 3rd down plays Boldin converted, the Ravens were faced with an average of 3rd down and 9 yards to go. On those three plays, the Ravens picked up an average of 22 yards.
That’s where a receiver becomes a game-breaker. On 3rd and long, he consistently made plays.
Boldin was quick to deflect praise following the game, saying “It’s not just about me. We have a group of receivers that’s going to be tough to defend no matter who we play. I don’t think there’s any team in this league that can match up three corners with our three receivers. We have three #1 receivers on the field.”
While it is fair to point out that the team’s other top receivers (Derrick Mason and TJ Houshmandzadeh) combined for just three catches and 48 yards, TE Todd Heap also pulled down six catches for 72 yards. Amongst those catches was a 35 yard reception to open the Ravens’ final drive; which helped pin the Jets inside their own 20 for their final possession.
What makes Anquan Boldin so good isn’t just what he does on the field himself, it’s what he allows the entire offense to do as well.
10 points and 282 yards might not be glaring reminders of that, but the Ravens did face Rex Ryan and the NFL’s best defense from a season ago. That won’t have to do that every week.
But if he remains healthy, they will have a bona fide superstar receiver to throw the ball to every week.
What we saw on Monday night is exactly what that star receiver is capable of doing every time he puts on a purple and black uniform. It’s EXACTLY why the organization was so determined to pry him away from the Arizona Cardinals and sign him to a new four year deal in the offseason.
For Ravens fans, it’s been a long time coming. Mason has been the franchise’s greatest receiver since he came to Charm City, and has regularly put up statistics similar to the ones put up by Boldin Monday night.
But Mason has never been thought of as a “gamebreaker”, the type of receiver whose presence alone could alter everything else going on every time he set foot on a field.
In one game with the team, Boldin proved he was EXACTLY that type of player.
Hear from Harbaugh, Flacco, Boldin, DT Haloti Ngata, LB Terrell Suggs and LB Ray Lewis following Monday night’s win NOW in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net!