Boldin on 49ers' full arsenal of weapons: 'It gives defenses fits'
In each of the last four games, either Michael Crabtree or Anquan Boldin have eclipsed 100 yards receiving. (USATSI)
Programming note: Watch Thursday's 49ers press conferences with Jim Harbaugh, Vic Fangio, Greg Roman, Michael Crabtree & NaVorro Bowman live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area at 11:55 a.m. or streaming live right here
SANTA CLARA -- A year ago at this time, the 49ers’ No. 2 wide receiver was Randy Moss. In 2011, Kyle Williams served that role in the NFC Championship game.
If there’s one area in which the 49ers have improved over their past two trips to the NFC title game, it’s at wide receiver. And the comparison is not even close.
This time around, the 49ers still really do not have a No. 2 receiver – if only because it’s almost necessary to assign equal status to Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin. Just call them Nos. 1 and 1A.
“It's tough on defenses when you have two guys outside capable of having big games, and then you have Vernon (Davis) inside matched up with linebackers,” Boldin said. “So it gives defenses fits.”
Defenses had no such dilemma a year ago. On passing downs, everybody knew the ball was going to Crabtree. Colin Kaepernick rarely threw to the other wide receivers. In fact, Kaepernick did not begin to utilize Davis as a receiving threat until the 49ers’ 28-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons that sent them to Super Bowl XLVII.
As far as a threat at the No. 2 spot, that did not come from Moss, who declared himself as the all-time greatest receiver during Super Bowl week. He said something else during Super Bowl week, too.
"I don't like my role," Moss declared while breaking a seven-week silence at the Super Bowl last year. "I don't. I like to be out there playing football."
Coach Jim Harbaugh claimed that was news to him. “He never said that to me," Harbaugh said on Wednesday.
In 19 games with the 49ers, Moss had 50 yards or more receiving only once. In his one season with the 49ers, Moss' influence off the field was generally considered as a positive for the team off the field and in the locker room. But the club expressed no desire to bring him back for a second season.
The 49ers came up with a significant upgrade with Boldin, who has recorded 50 yards or more receiving in a game 12 times this season. Boldin had 136 yards in the 49ers’ victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.
And there’s another thing: Boldin recently went out of his way to downplay his own contributions, insisting that he’s on the 49ers’ roster only to assist Crabtree.
“We all know he's the No. 1 receiver here,” Boldin said after piling up 149 receiving yards in the regular-season finale against the Arizona Cardinals. “This is his team. I'm here to help him out."
Yep, there have no complaints from Boldin, who was the leading receiver a year ago for the Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens. When the Ravens found themselves in a salary-cap pinch after signing quarterback Joe Flacco to a lucrative deal, they handed Boldin to the 49ers for a sixth-round draft pick.
“Anquan Boldin, my goodness,” Harbaugh said. “He's been a valuable, valuable player. He's a real football player. Of course we're going to utilize him.”
* * *
With Crabtree and Boldin, there’s no telling who will step up in any given game. Here’s a look at the 49ers’ past four games:
Dec. 23 vs. Atlanta
Crabtree 5 catches, 102 yards, 0 TD
Boldin 6 catches, 72 yards, 1 TD
Dec. 29 at Arizona
Boldin 9 catches, 149 yards, 1 TD
Crabtree 3 catches, 29 yards, 0 TD
Jan. 5 at Green Bay
Crabtree 8 catches, 125 yards, 0 TD
Boldin 3 catches, 38 yards, 0 TD
Jan. 12 at Carolina
Boldin 8 catches, 136 yards, 0 TD
Crabtree 3 catches, 26 yards, 0 TD