SANTA CLARA -- Pop quiz: Who was the 49ers' starting receiver alongside Michael Crabtree last postseason?
(Drawing a blank. Tall guy? Was it Dwight Clark? Maybe J.J. Stokes?)
It shouldn't be a stumper, not really, but in many ways it is, because Anquan Boldin is in that spot now and seems like he has been there forever.
It certainly seems like Boldin should've been with the 49ers forever, because he came in a trade last offseason and has fit wonderfully into the hardy team culture.
So much that ...
As the 49ers head into Sunday's mega-NFC Championship game against Seattle, Boldin has more than replaced Randy Moss in the 49ers' offense beside Crabtree.
To put it bluntly, Boldin has basically erased Moss, a future Hall of Famer, from all 49ers memory banks so decisively that it puts Boldin's own Hall of Fame candidacy in much grander perspective.
I covered almost every 49ers game last season, and I clearly remember only two things that Moss (now out of the league) did during the season:
His touchdown catch in Week 1 at Green Bay and his halfhearted attempt at a high Colin Kaepernick pass over the middle in the Super Bowl that ended up as an Ed Reed interception.
Maybe not all of it was Moss' fault; during Super Bowl week he said he was unhappy with his role with the 49ers and suggested he was mainly a decoy.
But this season, the 49ers sure haven't used Boldin as a decoy, and he carried much of the 49ers' pass attack for the first 11 games, while Crabtree rehabbed his Achilles injury.
Boldin had 85 receptions for 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns this regular season; last season, Moss had 28 catches for 434 yards and three touchdowns.
Last postseason, Moss had seven catches for 112 yards in three games. Already this postseason, Boldin has 11 receptions for 174 yards.
The truth is, the 49ers are doing everything they can to get balls to Boldin, who is 33, after they essentially gave up trying to get it to Moss last season, when he was 35.
"I don't remember him saying that," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Wednesday when I asked him about Moss' comments and how it related to Boldin's production this season.
"He never said it to me ... (but) ...
"Anquan Boldin! My goodness. Been a valuable, valuable player. He's a real football player; of course we're going to utilize him."
The basic point is that the 49ers took a flier on Moss last season hoping to catch lightning.
When Moss proved to be a negligible performer, Kaepernick often had to force the ball to Crabtree, no matter the coverage, and the last three passes in the Super Bowl are the most obvious examples.
Boldin, acquired for a sixth-round pick when the Ravens had to dump his salary, is not Moss -- just about the opposite, actually.
And that's why he fits in at 4949 Centennial Blvd. so well.
Boldin was shut down by Seattle in the teams' first matchup this season -- one catch, 7 yards -- but he racked up six catches for 93 yards when the 49ers won the rematch in December (and when Crabtree was back in the lineup).
You know Boldin is a huge influence when the 49ers' defensive players talk about him like he's one of them.
"He has that toughness, that physicality," safety Donte Whitner said approvingly of Boldin.
"Same guy that had his jaw broken and wires and stuff put in his jaw and he came back a couple weeks later (in 2008).
"He's one of the toughest guys on this football team, one of the toughest guys in the National Football League."
Boldin is reliable (not a Moss specialty, even at his peak), he's physical, and he carries himself with soft-spoken intensity.
When you're heading into the Game of All Games, knowing that you have to grapple and claw against the physical Seahawks secondary, whom would you rather have -- Boldin or Moss?
"Anquan Boldin is a valuable, valuable player, and every player should aspire to practice and play the game of football like Anquan Boldin," Harbaugh said.
"It doesn't take guys long to see that; it's not saying anything, it's the actions of him doing. You'd be pretty unaware not to notice it right away."
And Boldin has proved that he excels in the postseason, including six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown for the Ravens against the 49ers in the Super Bowl.
In that game, Boldin memorably wrestled a pass away from 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers on a key third-down play in the fourth quarter.
"I think for some guys, they don't pay attention to the small things, and that's one of the things that can kill you in the playoffs," Boldin said.
"You really have to go back to basics and play fundamentally sound football and take care of the small things."
He seems like an eternal hard-edged 49er, right there with Mike Iupati, Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Frank Gore and the rest.
But Boldin is a free agent after this season, and his high salary is the reason Baltimore traded him to the 49ers in the first place.
"That's something that we'll deal with in the offseason," Boldin said. "Right now I'm focused in on beating Seattle."
The point, until then, is that Boldin is perfect for the 49ers, they are perfect for him, and even if he leaves this offseason, he will not be forgotten, not for a long time.
Nhat V. Meyer/staff