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Heavy-hearted Smith plays catalyst for Ravens' emotional and spirited win

by | Senior NFL Columnist
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BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens don't beat New England without Joe Flacco, and Joe Flacco doesn't beat New England without Torrey Smith. I know how Flacco did it. What I don't know is how Smith did it.

Somehow, the Ravens' wide receiver fought through the loss of his 19-year-old brother, Tevin, killed in a motorcycle crash late Saturday night, and one hour of sleep to play the leading role in the Ravens' 31-30 come-from-behind defeat of New England that was significant for a number of reasons: 1) It marked the first time Baltimore beat Tom Brady in the regular season; 2) it demonstrated that Baltimore can complete a fourth-quarter comeback on the Pats, and 3) it proved something about Smith.

Basically, it proved that he never, ever, should be undersold.

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I can't imagine what it's like to lose a sibling, and I can't imagine what it's like to try to play on national TV the day something like that happens. But, then, Smith never imagined it, either -- not until he got the news Sunday morning that his brother had been killed ... and how he dealt with the tragedy says something about the young man he is.

He spent most of Sunday with his family. Then he spent the late afternoon with his teammates. In between, he wrestled with what he would do Sunday night, and when he returned to Baltimore Sunday afternoon, he knew. He decided to play football and see what happened.

And what happened is a night that Smith won't forget.

He caught six passes for 127 yards. He scored twice. And he was the catalyst in Baltimore's improbable victory, with the Ravens rallying from nine down with just over four minutes to play.

"It was tough," Smith said. "Emotionally, I didn't know how I would hold up. I was telling teammates a minute ago that this is new territory for me. I never really had to deal with a death in the family, let alone my brother. Our family is so tight, just like a lot of families. But it's part of life, and due to my teammates and my family and friends I'll be able to get over it."

The evening started with the Ravens asking fans for a moment of silence for Smith's brother. Then, the game began and Smith jogged onto the field ... with Flacco waiting until the end of the first quarter to throw to him. He would wind up throwing to Smith 10 times, finally connecting for a score when Flacco lobbed a 25-yard pass midway through the second period.

Smith quickly went to one knee, said a prayer, then ran off the field and into the arms of teammates and coaches waiting for him on the sidelines.

"I didn't want to be out there, just running around, doing nothing," Smith said. "If I was going to be out there I was going to give it my all. You just want to make the play. Afterward is when you can sit back and reflect on things. My teammates ... I love them to death, and they helped me get through this."

Well, the feeling's mutual. Because Baltimore wouldn't be 2-1 without Smith.

Yes, Flacco was superb in the fourth quarter, leading Baltimore to scoring drives on its last two possessions -- with Smith scoring again on the first series and the Patriots screwing up on the second when, on third-and-7, Flacco threw deep to wide receiver Jacoby Jones.

He had beaten defensive back Devin McCourty by two yards, but the ball was underthrown and McCourty ran into him, grabbing Jones just before the ball arrived.

Result: Ballgame.

"Torrey plays like this all the time," said Flacco, who threw for 382 yards, "and for him to come out and be able to play football the way he did tonight ... it says a lot about just who he is. We all know he's a great guy, an awesome teammate, but this is just unbelievable."

No, this is: The New England Patriots are 1-2, and tell me the last time you remember that happening. Moreover, they just blew a nine-point lead in the fourth period, and that occurs with Bill Belichick-coached teams about as often as Christmas in July.

But it just did, and it happened because Torrey Smith made it happen.

"How do you explain it?" asked coach John Harbaugh. "Coming from a faith perspective, God and heaven work in beautiful, wondrous, mysterious, wonderful ways. I'm not talking about winning and losing. I'm talking about what you see people accomplish in the face of adversity. That's what it's really all about."

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