This week, San Francisco wide receiver Anquan Boldin spelled out what every Niners fan has known:
Since Game 1, when Boldin had 13 catches against the Packers, other teams have been trying to smother him, and much of the time he’s seen double coverage.
That was especially true when tight end Vernon Davis was out of the lineup with a hamstring injury, leaving Boldin as the only proven target for quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“If he’s not in there, I know I’m going to get doubled,” Boldin told Scott Kegley of the team’s website. “If you have a guy like him that can take the top of the defense, defenses tend to roll to him some, too. It kind of takes some of the pressure off of me, takes some of the double teams off. He’s an added weapon for us.”
But what really takes the shackles off the 49ers’ receivers is the Niners running game. When it’s clicking, everything else falls into place.
This past Thursday night in a 35-11 victory over the Rams in St. Louis, the 49ers’ slumbering running game came alive, with the offensive line opening up big holes for Frank Gore, and Gore exploding for 153 yards on 20 carries.
Suddenly, said Boldin, the Rams defense had to take a different approach. It’s something the 49ers hope can continue against the Houston Texans Sunday night at Candlestick Park and for the rest of the season.
“There were times where they had to go man because of how we were hitting them in the running game,” Boldin said. “When we run the ball that way, it’s tough for teams to double-team anybody. You have to get eight (defenders) in the box, which leaves us one-on-one outside. As long a we can keep running the ball, Frank keeps hitting them and popping them for big yards, that will loosen up coverage outside.”
The other factor that could help Boldin get free would be the emergence of a second wide receiver. Jon Baldwin is next man up, and is expected to get plenty of opportunities vs. the Texans after making his 49ers debut last week with two catches against the Rams.
As the 49ers prepare for the Texans, however, Jim Harbaugh’s team seems focused on keeping its momentum alive from the Rams game, and building on the back-to-basics offensive scheme that featured a lot of power running plays and a lot of Gore.
More of that against Houston, and Boldin and his receiving mates should have an easier time getting free in the secondary. And Harbaugh says Gore – who’s often has had big games in bunches – is the man who can make the 49ers offense go.
“We know he’s capable of that,” Harbaugh told Bay Area reporters. “He knows he’s capable of that. And our offensive line knows he’s capable of that. No question that everybody’s inspired by what he does. Nobody does it like Frank Gore.”