The Browns were hanging around Thursday night in Baltimore.
But when the Ravens needed a play, they turned to their veteran – a player they hadn't called on much yet this season.
Baltimore leaned on wide receiver
"At certain points I'm asked to spark the team and make plays," Boldin said. "And I'm willing to accept that role."
Boldin didn't have much of a role, at least in terms of catches, heading into the game.
Last year's leader in receiving yards had just 10 catches for 118 yards and a touchdown in the first three games combined. He was targeted with 16 passes.
"I don't worry about that," Boldin said. "Your number is not going to be called all the time, but when it is you've got to be ready to make a play."
Boldin was ready Thursday night.
He had one catch for six yards in the first half, but quarterback
First, Boldin made a tough back-shoulder grab for 18 yards. Then, he plucked a ball over his head, in the rain, and took it 21 yards down the right sideline. Boldin nearly plowed through linebacker Scott Fujita's tackle to get to the end zone. Flacco ran it in for the touchdown three plays later to take a 16-7 lead.
Boldin made three more catches for 24 yards on the next drive, although that fell short of points. Browns cornerback Dimitri Patterson appeared to be getting frustrated and was jawing at Boldin.
"He kept saying something, but I just played ball, let my play do the talking," Boldin said.
Boldin's most clutch catch may have been a 28-yarder on the Ravens' final drive. With the team hanging on [add] to a seven-point lead and looking to kill the clock, Boldin hauled in a difficult over-the-shoulder grab in single coverage.
That forced the Browns to burn their first timeout, which was costly considering they ran out of time (not downs) in their final push to score a game-tying touchdown.
"That probably proved to be pretty big," Flacco said. "He had an awesome night. When we were struggling a little bit, we looked for him, and he came up big for us."
Boldin's production has dipped in his two seasons in Baltimore. He went from having four 1,000-plus seasons over his final five years in Arizona to 64 catches for 837 yards and seven touchdowns in 2010, then 57 catches for 887 yards and three touchdowns in 2011.
But Boldin, who is in his 10th season and 31 years old, has shown he can still post big numbers on any given day. He did it last year to the Arizona Cardinals (seven catches for 145 yards), and did it again against the Browns.
"It reminded everyone of the Arizona game, where he can just dominate, take over a game," second-year wide receiver
Smith caught six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown Thursday night and leads the Ravens with 332 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He still called Boldin the team's top receiver.
"People say he's old," Smith said. "But I don't think that necessarily the case. I think he's running fine. Obviously, he has some of the best route-running ability in the league. We see that every day in practice, so we know he hasn't lost a step. That's all just made-up stuff."