Super Bowl XLVII: Boldin leads Baltimore's triple threat
Anquan Boldin is the unsung hero of the Baltimore Ravens' postseason run.
The veteran wide receiver has 16 catches for 276 yards and three touchdowns in three playoff games, giving quarterback Joe Flacco a steady target in all three wins. There's little reason to think Boldin wouldn't continue to be the Ravens primary receiver in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
The same can be said of Niners top wideout Michael Crabtree, the former first-round pick who is finally beginning to live up to the hype built around him while he was breaking records at Texas Tech.
Crabtree, who turned 25 at the beginning of the season, has flourished since Colin Kaepernick became the starting quarterback. He's had 11 targets or more in five of the last seven games including the playoffs, compared to none in the previous 11 games.
Fly, Ravens, fly
Boldin is Baltimore's most frequent target, but it's not by much as Flacco loves to look for speedy Torrey Smith on deep throws. The second-year pro has caught passes of 40 or more yards in six of the Ravens 19 regular season and postseason games this year.
Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta are Flacco's preferred end zone targets. Smith has 10 touchdown grabs and Pitta isn't far behind with nine. Though third-year pro Pitta is clearly option No. 3 in the passing game, he has 71 catches in 2012-13.
Third receiver Jacoby Jones is the team's fifth option behind running back Ray Rice, but his clutch 70-yard touchdown catch against the Denver Broncos in the divisional round is proof enough that is not to be ignored.
The Niners receiver corps has battled injury this season. They first lost Kyle Williams in Week 12, then Mario Manningham two weeks later. Those losses opened the door for future Hall of Famer Randy Moss to take a larger role.
Moss, who said Tuesday he believes he is "the greatest receiver to ever play this game" - although most Niners fans would argue that distinction belongs to Jerry Rice - is not the same player he once was. Still, he's been a vital part of the 49ers passing attack since Manningham went down. An afterthought most games until that point, Moss, 35, has seen a steady diet of four targets in five of the last six games.
Tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker also see their fair share of Kaepernick passes, although in most games it's one or the other and not both. Kaepernick and Davis had trouble developing chemistry for weeks until the NFC Championship Game when Davis caught five passes for 106 yards and a touchdown.
Watch the birds
Moss and Davis have name value thanks to their past accomplishments, but they aren't the same anymore. Moreover, The Ravens' are able to stretch the field better than the Niners can. The Ravens can go with a single back, three-wideout set, and any of their five receiving options is a legitimate threat to get the ball and make something happen. This one is no contest; Baltimore has the better receivers.