Two yards, and it could all be his: an emotional victory, a measure of redemption and the finishing touch on what surely would be the most satisfying opening-day performance of a long and luxuriant NFL career.
The Niners led by a field goal and faced a fourth-and-2 at the Packers' 36-yard line with three minutes remaining on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Candlestick Park. Boldin, quite naturally, wanted the coach to put the team's fate in his scorching-hot hands.
Get it to me, Boldin thought to himself on the sideline, and it's a wrap.
A few seconds later, on cue (or, in this case, on "Q"), Boldin delivered. He seized the moment and the ball, drifting away from tight coverage to snag a short pass from Colin Kaepernick and charge upfield for a 15-yard gain. A Phil Dawson chip shot increased the Niners' lead to 34-28 with 26 seconds remaining, and after repelling Aaron Rodgers' desperate comeback try, San Francisco had successfully begun the defense of its NFC championship.
With 13 catches, 208 yards and a touchdown -- and one charged intervention on behalf of his quarterback -- Boldin had underscored his immense value, as if the football world needed a reminder. Actually, from Boldin's perspective, it did: Deemed expendable six months earlier by the Baltimore Ravens, whom he'd helped earn a triumph over the Niners in Super Bowl XLVII, the proud receiver had balked at the team's insistence that he accept a pay cut, facilitating his unexpected exit.
"I was very surprised, especially after the run we had just been on together," Boldin told NFL.com on Sunday evening. "I thought they'd want to keep it going. I mean, I've been in this league a long time, and I understand the business side of it. But yeah, I was pretty surprised when they asked."
Due to make $6 million in 2013, Boldin's response was unequivocal: "I talked with my agent, and I said, 'No way I can do that.' When I signed with the Ravens (after being acquired in a 2010 trade with the Arizona Cardinals), I signed for four years, and I took that to heart. I was honoring my side of it. I expected them to honor theirs."
Boldin brought more to San Francisco than great hands, shrewd route running and extreme physicality as a blocker and after-the-catch runner; he also exudes attitude in a locker room full of big hitters and bold personalities. It was not at all shocking that during Sunday's most contentious sequence -- triggered by Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews' overtly unsportsmanlike lunging neck tackle of Kaepernick as the quarterback ran out of bounds at the Packers' 6-yard line in the second quarter -- Boldin was among the first and most furious responders, charging into the fray to grapple with Packers cornerback Sam Shields as left tackle Joe Staley teed off on the shaggy-haired perpetrator.
"He knew what he was doing," Boldin said of Matthews. "We're definitely not (going to stand for that). You don't let anybody cheap-shot your quarterback. I don't care what they think -- if we had done that to Rodgers, they would have gone nuts. We weren't going to tolerate it."
"We see it at practice every day," Niners offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "He is a special guy."
Boldin's talent has been obvious since his stunning NFL debut a decade ago, when he caught 10 passes for 217 yards for the Cardinals in a 42-24 defeat to the Detroit Lions. There was nothing subtle about his source of motivation: After a relatively slow 40-yard-dash time caused Boldin, a former Florida State standout, to slip to the second round, the receiver resolved to make everybody pay.
On Sunday, having been shunned following a highly productive postseason that included six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown against the Niners in the Ravens' Super Bowl victory last February, Boldin drew on some of the same emotions.
The two season openers, a decade apart, were "very similar," he said. "But the good thing about this one is that we got a win. So, this one was better."
Boldin, seeking to help lead a third franchise to the Super Bowl, relishes his opportunity to play with the Niners -- and to inspire some of his less-seasoned teammates in the process.
"When I came in, they told me just to be myself," he said. "They told me to come in and have input on a team with a younger quarterback and to take a leadership role. So that's what I've done. I think I fit right in."
That high-profile trade, which cost the Seahawks a first-round selection and two other picks, has yet to pay dividends, as Harvin is on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from hip surgery. The 'Hawks scored only a single touchdown in Sunday's 12-7 victory over the Carolina Panthers, which is one reason I dropped them from first to second in this week's incontrovertible pecking order.
The recipient of the first of our 32Qs? That distinction belongs to the team for which 'Q,' on the initial Sunday of the 2013 season, emerged as The Answer.
We'll have far more clarity next Sunday night, when the Niners and 'Hawks do battle in Seattle. Until then, try not to perspire as we inquire:
2) Seattle Seahawks: The next time someone asks Russell Wilson about a *sophomore slump*, wouldn't it be great if he reacted like Marshall Mathers getting a Rick Rubin question from Brent Musburger?