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Boldin's drop sticks with him as Steelers loom

For the brief moment that the pass hung in the air, it seemed like nothing was standing between Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin and a possible trip to the AFC Championship Game in their first season together.

It could have put the Ravens back in front of the Pittsburgh Steelers with just four minutes left in the second-round playoff showdown last January 15, but everybody knows that it didn't.

Boldin lunged for the low spiral in the end zone and it bounced harmlessly off his chest, sending him home to ponder a debut season in Baltimore that didn't quite turn out the way he — or the team — had hoped.

He made a big first impression with a couple of huge games in September, but was unable to replicate the gaudy numbers that he put up when he was the other half of an otherworldly receiving duo in Arizona. Worse than that, he caught two passes or fewer in four of the Ravens' final five games and had just one catch for -2 yards during that frustrating final playoff game at Heinz Field.

They say that the great ones have short memories, but Boldin said on Thursday night that he carried that game into the offseason and used it to push himself toward a more representative season and another deep playoff run in 2011.

"At this point, we're over it," Boldin said after catching five Flacco passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in the Ravens' 34-31 preseason victory over the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium, "but it's definitely something that motivates you throughout the offseason."

Flacco, who also wouldn't mind having a do-over on that play, seems just as determined to perfect his on-field chemistry with the guy who was brought last year to be his big-play receiver.

"Obviously, we want to get better and continue to improve," he said. "I don't know if we had a specific thought about that (play). I can tell you that, as far as I see it, we are hooking up a little bit better and doing some things a little better, so I'm happy about that."

Head coach John Harbaugh couldn't be happier that Boldin and Flacco are working overtime to make sure they get the most out of their relationship this season. Flacco has had to come out of his comfort zone since the departure of veteran Derrick Mason, who was the go-to guy the past three years.

"It's two guys getting to know each other, and Joe learning where the ball needs to be for Anquan, and Anquan understanding when he has to get out of breaks for Joe," Harbaugh said. "You talk about timing and chemistry and maturing together. I don't even know what the word is, but I think they are getting to know each other in the passing game, and that bodes well for us."

The final minutes of the Pittsburgh game are a painful memory for anyone associated with the Ravens, but Harbaugh said he is not surprised that it remained fresh in Boldin's mind while he was staying in shape during the lockout.

"Did Jack Nicklaus ever forget a putt that he missed in a major, or in a minor? I don't think so, not on the 18th green," Harbaugh said. "But they don't let it affect them. They don't carry it with them. …I don't think they dwell on it where it brings them down or costs them confidence or anything like that. I'm sure he remembers it. I remember it. I haven't forgotten it."

Boldin also hasn't forgotten that his reception and yardage totals dropped last year to their lowest levels since he missed the first six games of the 2004 season with a knee injury. That figures to change with the altered dynamic of this year's receiver corps, which will also feature newly acquired deep threat Lee Evans.

Evans should stretch the defensive backfield and put Boldin in great position to pile up receptions underneath. He'll be the possession guy, so it's more important for Flacco to bond with Boldin than with any of the other receivers.

"That's what we're working towards," Boldin said. "We kind of spend a little time after practice making sure we're on the same page, going through extra routes and really trying to get to know each other. It's not something that happens overnight. The great ones always put in extra time and that's what we're trying to do now."

The early returns are starting to come in. Boldin had a big game against the Redskins and the Ravens scored more than 30 points for the second straight preseason game, so he is understandably upbeat with another Steeler showdown just two weeks away.

"I think, for us," Boldin said, "the sky's the limit."

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