There were whispers even before the season began that the 2012 Ravens, perhaps for the first time in its history, would be defined by their offense more than by their defense.
Now, with Terrell Suggs, Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis potentially all standing side-by-side on the sideline in street clothes for the foreseeable future, you can shout it from the highest row of the stadium: This suddenly battered and bruised team will go as far as its offense carries it.
Observers say this is Joe Flacco's offense, or this is Ray Rice's offense. Both of which, to a large degree, are true. But one player who is emerging as a steadying, veteran presence on offense during this potential sea change of a season is receiver Anquan Boldin.
Boldin, who has more NFL experience than Flacco and Rice combined, is on pace for his best season as a Raven. NFL skill positions are a young man's domain, but Boldin, who turned 32 last week, is showing he still belongs.
The 10-year veteran led the Ravens with five catches for 98 yards in their 31-29 win over Dallas -- the third straight game he led the team in receiving -- including a 31-yard grab that set up the Ravens' last touchdown. Ravens receivers have had a lot of trouble this year finding separation against tight press coverage. But on that play, Boldin fought off contact at the line of scrimmage from cornerback Brandon Carr, who stumbled, leaving Boldin wide open down the right sideline.
"There was a lot of physical play outside there on the edge," coach John Harbaugh said afterward. "A lot was going on out there, and I thought our guys did a good job of playing right through it, especially Anquan. He did a great job."
Boldin also led the Ravens with four catches for 82 yards in the 9-6 slog over the Chiefs two weeks ago, and took over the game against Cleveland, with eight catches for 125 yards in the second half alone.
Through six games, Boldin leads the Ravens with 28 catches for 429 yards. That puts him on pace for 74 catches for 1,144 yards, which would be his highest totals in three seasons as a Raven. Last season, he caught 57 passes for a team-high 887 yards.
" "At certain points I'm asked to spark the team and make plays," Boldin told BaltimoreRavens.com after the Cleveland game. "And I'm willing to accept that role."