At age 23, Torrey Smith represents the future of the Ravens' wide receiving corps. But even Smith, a second-year veteran, defers to Anquan Boldin.
"I love watching Anquan play," Smith said. "He's a dominant player and a great mentor. … It's a pleasure just playing beside him."
After an unusually quiet first half, the 31-year-old Boldin demonstrated that there is still plenty of gas left in his tank. He posted eight of his nine catches and 125 of his 131 yards in the final 30 minutes of the Ravens' 23-16 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
Thursday's yardage was a season high and his most since Oct. 30, 2011, when he recorded 145 yards on seven receptions in a 30-27 win against the visiting Arizona Cardinals. It was the 33rd 100-yard receiving performance in his career and his sixth as a Raven.
Boldin was somewhat nonchalant about his performance.
"Just my number being called at that time," he said. "The thing about this offense is, you don't know when your number is going to be called. So when it does get called, you want to make a play."
Boldin was especially critical on the offense's opening possession of the third quarter. During that series, he caught three balls for a combined 60 yards, and each reception gained a fresh set of downs. The Ravens capped that drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Joe Flacco for a 16-7 lead.
On the offense's next possession, Boldin made three more receptions for 24 yards, but the series ended unsuccessfully when rookie kicker Justin Tucker missed a 47-yard field goal wide right — his first miss in nine attempts.
"He was just out there making plays, playing the way Anquan is capable of," said Smith (Maryland), who finished with six catches for 97 yards and one touchdown. "All he has to do is touch the ball. He's still a dominant player, and he showed that tonight. He's our top receiver, and we all feed off of him. I think it helps us out a lot when he's touching the ball."
Before Thursday night, Boldin ranked fourth on the team in times targeted with 16, trailing tight end Dennis Pitta (31), running back Ray Rice (19) and Smith (18).
Boldin was also tied for fourth in receptions (10) with Smith and fifth in yards (118) behind Smith (235), Pitta (188), wide receiver Jacoby Jones (153) and Rice (127).
But by the end of Thursday night, Boldin had moved into a tie for third with Smith in times targeted (28) and into second in catches (19) and yards (249).
Boldin said he wasn't worried about his personal statistics.
"Your number's not going to get called all the time," he said. "So you just continue to work hard."
Despite Flacco's multitude of options, Boldin has finished each of the past two seasons as the Ravens' leading receiver in yards, with 837 in 2010 and 887 in 2011. That's why Smith didn't put much weight into outside criticism that Boldin is getting too old to be dangerous at his position.
"Everyone thinks he's old, but I don't think that's necessarily the case," Smith said. "I think he's running fine. He's obviously one of the best route runners in the league. We see that every day in practice, and he hasn't lost a step. That's just for you all to make up stuff."