FOXBORO, Mass. — Steve Smith Sr. has been doing this whole football thing for a while. The wide receiver can appreciate the work of an elite cornerback, even when his own team falls short.
Darrelle Revis didn’t play his best game Saturday as the New England Patriots defeated the Baltimore Ravens 35-31 in the teams’ AFC Divisional Playoff at Gillette Stadium. Yet Smith, who was covered by Revis throughout the contest, spoke glowingly of the six-time Pro Bowler following the contest.
“Every team doesn’t have a great corner like Revis. It was a chess match,” Smith said. “There were times where we did little savvy vet moves against each other. It was a great battle, and I respect the heck out of him. He played a great game. I don’t have anything negative to say.”
Smith caught three passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. The 14th-year receiver ran a slant route in the red zone in the first quarter en route to hauling in a 9-yard score. Smith insists the TD simply was a product of him running his route and not any mind games between the veterans.
Smith also got the best of Revis in the second quarter, though one certainly could make the case the Patriots ended up on the wrong side of some questionable officiating. Revis was flagged for pass interference while covering Smith on a deep pass up the sideline. The penalty cost the Patriots 20 yards, and Joe Flacco and Co. subsequently scored a touchdown with 10 seconds remaining in the first half to give the Ravens a 21-14 lead.
Revis was assessed just one pass interference call all regular season. He also committed only two holding penalties and allowed only one touchdown. It speaks to the intensity and shock value of Saturday’s matchup with Smith.
“He was very tough. He’s always tough,” Revis said of Smith. “Even the battles in the past that we’ve had and you know this game. It’s the playoffs. There’s a lot on the line, and I’m sure he has the will to want to win. But it was great.”
It looked for a while like the Ravens would pull off an upset victory, emphatically stopping the Patriots’ quest for their first Super Bowl since the 2004 season. New England rallied, however, and Tom Brady delivered the dagger in the form of a 23-yard touchdown strike to Brandon LaFell in the fourth quarter to give the Patriots a 35-31 lead.
“It was a great game. As a Baltimore Raven, there’s nothing to be disappointed about with this game,” Smith said. “There was a lot of back and forth, some stalls on offense for both sides, each team’s defense made the other offense make mistakes. It was a good game. In the end, we just didn’t have enough points.”
If the Ravens pulled off an upset, Smith’s strong play against Revis would have been a big reason why. Instead, the receiver was left to tip his cap after a battle between two of the league’s grittiest performers.
“Good player,” Smith said of Revis with a wink. “Not bad.”
Thumbnail photo via Elise Amendola/The Associated Press