Steve Smith may have had the upper hand, but he and Aqib Talib didn’t exactly leave their Monday Night Football matchup with their dignity intact.
Smith and Talib were decidedly not above the fray all throughout Monday’s contest, where the two — who had done battle in NFC South matchups when Talib played for the Buccaneers — were going after each other from the beginning. Talib matched up with Smith in man coverage, and Smith had Talib’s number early. Smith beat Talib for a couple of receptions in the first quarter and had celebrations waiting when he popped up from his completions or when Talib was called for penalties.
Talib, not content to merely get beat on the field, started firing back almost as soon as Smith started producing. He was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the first quarter when he wouldn’t let go of Smith’s legs after a tackle, and he got himself dangerously close to an ejection soon after when he was seen banging face masks with Smith in the end zone. Talib’s behavior was quite the jolt for those used to watching the buttoned-down Patriots, but Talib still ended up playing much of the game, with New England needing its best on the field against a Panthers offense that wouldn’t let up.
Smith ended the night with four receptions for 62 yards, but he may have done more damage off the stat sheet, where he was obviously inside Talib’s head. He ended his night of messing with the Patriots cornerback with a message for Talib.
“These kind of games I love to have, physical,” Smith told FOX Sports 1. “Some guys aren’t built for the durability of physical games. You see who finished, and you see who didn’t.”
Smith was referring to Talib not being on the field for the final few plays of the game as he dealt with an injury. Monday night was Talib’s first game back after missing several weeks with a hip injury.
That wasn’t all from Smith, though.
“Hey, go ice your [butt] up now,” he said.
Stay classy, everyone.