OWINGS MILLS – Instead of pouting about diminishing production and a lack of involvement in the Baltimore Ravens’ offense, Anquan Boldin is focusing on the positive.
He’s in the playoffs.
Often facing bracket coverage from defenses, Boldin has caught just five passes for 26 yards over the past three games.
Although Boldin finished the season with 64 receptions for 837 yards and seven touchdowns during his first season in Baltimore, it isn’t exactly what was envisioned for him when the Ravens acquired him via a trade from the Arizona Cardinals.
The Ravens don’t seem to know how to get Boldin the football on a consistent basis, usually giving up on throwing it in his direction if they think there’s any risk of an interception.
“Nah, we’re 12-4 and going to the playoffs,” Boldin said when asked if he’s frustrated by his role in the offense. “I was in Arizona last year. Just imagine if I was there this year.”
Boldin’s old team went 5-11 this season.
Playing for the Ravens, the three-time Pro Bowl selection’s numbers are down. However, his season is still aliv as he prepares for Sunday’s AFC wild-card playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Over the past nine games, he only had one big game as he caught five passes for 118 yards and a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“They don’t matter,” Boldin said of the statistics, including catching two passes for nine yards in the Ravens’ 13-7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals to close out the regular season. “They just don’t. If we win, that’s all that matter.”
Boldin said he wasn’t sure what coverage he’s facing even though offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has pointed out that he often faces double coverage.
“I’m not really sure,” said Boldin, who was signed to a four-year, $28 million contract extension last spring. “Different teams are doing different things. In some games, they try to take me out. It’s just taking care of your own part. It’s just us not executing. If we take care of ourselves, we’ll be okay.”
It’s not as if Boldin’s skills have deteriorated.
He’s proven he’s still capable of impactful performances and was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week earlier this season.
“Anquan is a terrific, terrific, terrific player, a terrific person,” said Chiefs coach Todd Haley, Boldin’s former position coach in Arizona. “He’s a unique player. He’s a hybrid receiver that when he gets the ball in his hands becomes a running back. He’s extremely competitive, he’s extremely tough.
“I think a lot of people forget that we had a game against the Jets in which he basically got his face broken in half. That would have ended the career of many, many players, let alone to come back in the same year and compete and play When some of the rumors starter to fly that there was some availability, he was somebody that I would have been real excited about trying to get into our program.”
ED REED RETURNS: Star free safety Ed Reed returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis after being held out Wednesday due to a rib injury. Reed is expected to play in Sunday’s AFC wild-card game.
Not practicing for the second consecutive day for Baltimore: Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (thigh) and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (knee).
"They’re boycotting, they don’t like the cold weather," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said with a laugh when asked about Reed and Ngata. "No, it’s not a concern. They’ll both be fine. It’s us knowing where we are in the season, knowing we’ve had a lot of football games and those two guys have played so well and they understand the defense so well, that if they do have a little bump or bruise or something like that. It’s best to get them 100 percent rather than running around.”
Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (shoulder stinger), cornerback Josh Wilson (shoulder stinger), linebacker Jameel McClain (back) and safety Tom Zbikowski (bulging disc in his back) were limited.
Participating fully: center Matt Birk (knee), who didn’t practice Wednesday, wide receiver Derrick Mason (abdominals, ankle), offensive tackle Michael Oher (sprained right knee, ankle) and wide receiver David Reed (torn wrist ligament).
Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg isn’t giving up on Reed’s chances of playing despite a damaged left wrist that may require offseason surgery. Reed is the leading kickoff returner in the NFL this season.
"He had a good practice,” Rosburg said. “He got some balls in his hand and looks like he’s growing more comfortable with his device he has on his arm. So, we’ll see how it plays out."
The Ravens would turn to Jalen Parmele on kickoff returns if Reed is sidelined.
For the Chiefs, star wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (illness) participated fully as he returned to practice.
Offensive guard Brian Waters (illness) and wide receiver Quinten Lawrence (illness) didn’t practice.
ZBIKOWSKI ON THE MEND: Relieved that he won’t need to have surgery to repair a bulging disc in his back and isn’t being placed on injured reserve, Zbikowski returned to practice this week.
Out for the past three games since getting hurt against the Houston Texans, Zbikowski recently had a cortisone shot that alleviated the pressure in his back.
"Just to move and be with the team again and just knowing it’s not going to get worse, I’m feeling pretty good right now,” Zbikowski said. “We’ll see how the rest of the week goes, see how it feels. It’s finally feeling good and straightened up and everything. I’m able to move around and everything so it should be alright."
Zbikowski started the first six games of the season, but missed eight of the last 10 games due to a bruised heel and the back ailment.
Zbikowski looks like he’s lost weight during his latest convalescence, appearing to be noticeably slimmer.
"You’re always going to want some more practice time, especially when you’ve been off," Zbikowski said. "Getting back out there, honestly, it felt a little weird, you know what I mean? Literally, I had to get my legs back under me. But it felt good. It should be feeling good. I didn’t feel anything at practice that would make it worse.
"I feel good, just a little soreness and fatigue from not really using it too much. I was a little worried about how it was going to feel when I woke up this morning, but it felt pretty good. It felt real good, actually. So, I’m excited to be back out there and I can’t wait to dress back up."
GETTING ADVICE: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron gave a strong endorsement of Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
Jackson is a serious candidate to be elevated to the Raiders head coaching vacancy created this week when owner Al Davis opted to not pick up Tom Cable’s contract.
Jackson was previously the Ravens’ quarterbacks coach where he worked with Cameron and aided in the development of quarterback Joe Flacco.
"Tremendous football coach, great friend," Cameron said. "I’ve thought a lot of Hue for several years, before I’d ever worked with him and then worked with him the last two years here. And he really helped us do a lot of things that we were able to do. He had a tremendous amount of input here. However it works out for him, I think we’d all be thrilled for him."
Cameron said he has tapped into Jackson’s knowledge of the Kansas City Chiefs as he prepares for Sunday’s AFC wild-card playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium.
"This time of year, you talk to anybody that you know," Jackson said. "Yes, I’ve talked to him several times throughout the course of the year."
The Raiders defeated the Chiefs 31-10 last week, piling up 344 yards of total offense with 209 rushing yards.
“They ran a version of some things we did here a couple years ago,” Cameron said. “You know, went big on them and brought in all their offensive linemen and ran the ball downhill on them.
“You’re always looking, stealing a little bit here, a little bit there. The bottom line is doing what you think you do best this time of year.”
REED HONORED: Ed Reed was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Month, the league announced.
Reed led the NFL with eight interceptions despite only playing in 10 games.
For the month, Reed registered 22 tackles and an NFL-best four interceptions as he helped the Ravens to a 4-1 record.
Over the final two games, Reed recorded back to back games with two interceptions.
The Ravens are 11-0 when Reed has at least two INTs in a game.
Reed has 21 interceptions in December/January since entering the league in 2002, the most in the NFL during that span.
Reed missed the first six games of the season on the physically unable to perform list following offseason hip surgery.
He also played through a nerve impingement in his neck and suffered bruised ribs during the regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals where he intercepted Carson Palmer twice.
“Ed Reed is a tremendously tough individual, mentally and physically tough,” Mattison said. “Ed Reed’s not just an interceptor. When he goes to make contact, he’s going to do go with everything he has.”
OFFENSE STRUGGLING: The Ravens managed to gain just 199 yards of total offense against the Bengals.
Over the past six games, the Ravens have plummeted from 12th in total offense to 22nd overall by the end of the season.
They are averaging only 3229 yards per contest.
"The good news is, all the stats can be thrown out the window at this point,” Cameron said. “The great thing about the playoffs, it’s a new season and it’s been proven year after year that teams can elevate their play. And then some teams don’t elevate their play. What better time for us to play the way you’ve seen us play in spurts throughout the entire season and in various games?"
The Ravens have won four games in a row, but not because of the offense.
They did set a franchise record for fewest turnovers.
“We want to take care of the football,” Cameron said. “I’m old school from that perspective.”
However, they’re narrowly winning these games.
"Winning ugly ain’t all that bad," Cameron said. "I think we’ve proven we can win games in the teens. We can win games in the 20s and we’ve proven we can win games in the 30s. We’d all like to do it scoring over 30 points."
Echoing coach John Harbaugh’s comments, Cameron expressed confidence that the offense will engineer a turnaround in the postseason.
“We’re confident our guys will get that done,” he said. “Anytime you’ve got to go in the playoffs with a young, experienced, talented quarterback, that gives us all tremendous hope that we’ll get that done.”