"I don't know if he thought I was joking," Boldin said. "But he gave me a shot in the second half."
After being held without a catch for most of the first half, Boldin was involved early and often in the second half, catching all five passes Flacco threw his way while establishing a new franchise single-game playoff record with 145 receiving yards. Boldin's final catch, an 18-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, sealed the victory.
"We kind of wanted to hold some things back until the second half. We got the looks that we thought we were going to get," Boldin said. "The second half we made adjustments and came out and opened it up a little bit."
And it was a spectacular catch by Boldin on the first drive of the second half that got it going.
On third-and-19 from the Baltimore 9-yard line, Flacco was flushed from the pocket. As he rolled to his right, wide receiver Tandon Doss streaked down the right sideline. Boldin trailed him by a few yards. Flacco threw a high-arcing pass up for grabs, and Boldin came down with the football between a pair of Colts defenders. The 50-yard catch was the game's longest play.
"I don't know who it was intended for, but I wasn't going to let it bypass me," he said. "It was a scramble play, the way I just saw Joe throw his hand up. I really didn't see [Doss] until the end. I put my head down and started running, and went back up to locate the ball. … I made a play on it."
The Ravens did not score on that possession, but on their next drive, Boldin gained 56 yards on two catches, including a 46-yard reception when he ran toward the right sideline before making a sharp left turn up the sideline, getting behind Colts cornerback Cassius Vaughn to catch an accurate Flacco deep ball. Two plays later, tight end Dennis Pitta caught a 20-yard touchdown.
With 9:14 left in the fourth quarter, Boldin ran deep again before bending his route toward the back right corner of the end zone. Identifying that Boldin was in 1-on-1 coverage, Flacco floated a ball toward the back of the end zone, giving Boldin a chance to see the pass and run under it.
"He got outside of the guy and put his left foot in the ground [to] go towards the back of the end zone, so I knew I had a good shot at him," said Flacco, who completed 12 of his 23 attempts for 282 yards and two touchdown passes. "If I threw it a little bit more firmer towards the back of the end zone, it probably would have been an easier catch, but he did a great job going up."
Boldin leaped over the back of cornerback Darius Butler and snatched the ball, for the 18-yard touchdown as Butler tried to pry the ball out as they fell to the turf.
"Same thing he's been doing for his whole career," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "He's a play-maker. He's a competitive guy. He's deceptively fast, got behind us on double moves, and he made some great plays down the field. He's got great ability, he's got great hands. He's tough as heck to defend."
Boldin, who had 65 catches for 921 yards and four touchdowns in 15 regular-season games, has been tough to defend in the playoffs. In two postseason games a year ago, he had 10 catches for 174 yards and a touchdown. In eight career playoff games — he played three in 2008 with the Arizona Cardinals — Boldin now has 35 receptions for 571 yards and four touchdowns.
He said the Ravens were inspired by linebacker Ray Lewis, who played his final game at M&T Bank Stadium, but regardless of that, the 32-year-old was planning to "go out and give everything."
"I think everyone in the locker room wanted to make sure this wasn't our last game," he said.
Up next are the Denver Broncos, who held Boldin without a catch in a 34-17 loss in Week 15.
The Broncos finished the regular season with 11 straight wins to secure the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs. The Broncos ranked third in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 199.6 passing yards per game, but Boldin wanted this challenge.
"I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "I was hoping we would get them, so they'll see us next week."
He was then asked if there was reason to believe that Saturday's divisional round game will be different.
"We'll make it different," Boldin said before walking off, once again saving his best for last.
twitter.com/mattvenselCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun