Sep 24, 2012, 9:57 PM EDT
Ravens 31 – Patriots 30
WHAT’S THE STORY?
The headline-grabber after Sunday night’s game in Baltimore is that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick grabbed one of the replacement officials at the end of the game.
According to NFL.com there were 24 penalties called during the game. The Ravens were flagged 14 times for 135 yards and the Patriots 10 times for 83 yards.
Players and fans alike have been zealous in their calls for the regular officials to return, and that storyline shows no sign of dissipating.
But the story that should overshadow all others from Sunday night’s game is the great bravery demonstrated by Baltimore WR Torrey Smith.
Smith had been awakened in the wee hours of Sunday morning by the kind of telephone call we all dread. He learned that his 19-year-old brother, Tevin Jones, had run his motorcycle into a utility pole and died.
Smith immediately made plans to go to Virginia to be with his family. He collected his girlfriend and another of his brothers, both of whom were staying at Smith’s house in Baltimore, and began the drive around 2 AM.
But as John Harbaugh told me, Smith didn’t leave the team hotel without first tipping the valet driver who brought his car around.
“That’s the kind of person he is,” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh spoke with Smith before the receiver drove off that morning. They cried together, Harbaugh told me. Smith said, “I still want to play, coach.”
Harbaugh left it to the 23-year-old to decide whether he would make the game. “I want to respect his decision to play,” the coach told me before kickoff.
Not only did Smith play, the former Maryland Terrapin had six receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Any time he made a big play the Baltimore crowd chanted his name, “Tor-REY, Tor-REY!”
“How do you explain it?” Harbaugh said in his post-game press conference. “Coming from a faith perspective, God and heaven work in beautiful wondrous, mysterious, wonderful ways. I am not talking about winning and losing. I am talking about what you see people accomplish in the face of adversity. That’s really what it’s all about. What would be a better story than the one you just saw?”
Sadly, the story will continue with Smith having to face the reality of his brother’s passing in the days to come. The Ravens have offered to have a staff member make funeral arrangements for Tevin so that Torrey won’t have to.
But as Harbaugh reminded me, it’s a short week for his team. They host the Ravens Thursday night. Smith won’t have much of an opportunity to grieve with his family.
Still, the young man who essentially raised all of his siblings will have the support of the team and city that love him.
After Aaron Hernandez suffered a high ankle sprain a week ago against the Cardinals, the Patriots learned they would be without part of their record-setting tight end tandem for 2-8 weeks.
The Patriots adjusted this week by re-signing WR Deion Branch — a six-year member of the Patriots and MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX — and signing Pro Bowl TE Kellen Winslow, Jr.
Branch was somewhat of a surprise cut at the end of training camp. He told me that when Belichick gave him the bad news the coach also told him it was one of the most difficult decisions he ever had to make.
Belichick confirmed that to me, adding, “We never cleared out his locker. That should tell you something.”
What it told most everyone was that Branch wouldn’t be gone long. The injury to Hernandez simply sped up the inevitable.
“Honestly, after watching the Tennessee game, the Pats looked good,” Branch said, referring to New England’s week one victory over the Titans. “They ran the ball well, they were throwing the ball well. I was thinking, ‘Man, I don’t think I’ll be back,’”
But last Monday his agent got the call, and Branch returned to a hero’s welcome. He finished Sunday’s game with two receptions for eleven yards.
As for Winslow, Tom Brady told us he threw to the TE more than anyone else in practice during the week leading up to the Ravens game.
“I threw to him in warm-ups, in drills, off to the side when the defense was on the field,” Brady said.
Perhaps that work will pay off down the road, but on Sunday the former Miami Hurricane had one catch for twelve yards.
RAY AND RAY
He’s 37, he’s svelte and he had seven tackles against the Pats Sunday Night. There is no question that Ray Lewis is still the heart and soul of the Ravens. And no football fan is immune to the excitement generated by his unique pre-game dance at M&T Bank Stadium.
But as Lewis gets closer to retirement, there’s another Ray the Ravens can look to for inspiration.
Ray Rice may not have the flashy entrance or the fiery speeches, but he can flat out play.
Against a very good New England defense on Sunday he chalked up another 101 yards rushing and a touchdown on 20 carries.
He can catch the ball, too. Joe Flacco found him 5 times for 49 yards.
It was Rice’s biggest output against Bill Belichick’s defense since the wildcard game in 2009 (159 yards rushing and 2 TDs).
The former second-round draft pick out of Rutgers has some lofty goals. In addition to getting to the Super Bowl, Rice would like to reach 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season.
That’s rarified air. Only two players in NFL history — Roger Craig in 1985 and Marshall Faulk in 1999 — have done it.
“My goal every season is to put myself over 1,000 yards rushing and over 500-yards receiving,” Rice told me. “Anything on top of that is icing on the cake. And I came close (2011 — 1,364 yards rushing and 704 yards receiving). But you put yourself in an elite category when you do that.”
Sunday Night Football TwitterView all »
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Sunday Night Football Headlines
- Patriots hold football clinic in Newtown
- Klein isn’t giving up on his NFL dream
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- Lions 2011 draft class hasn’t lived up to expectations
- New routine puts burden of responsibility on Eagles players
- Husain Abdullah wanted to return to football in 2012
- Inside the Super Bowl L and LI voting process
- Schiano says he’s “not against” starting Glennon
- Larry Fitzgerald: 2012 was most frustrating season I’ve ever had
- Jets’ Mt. Rushmore may not have many recent faces
- Pro Bowl
- Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
- Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans
- Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
- San Fransisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
- San Fransisco 49ers at New England Patriots
- Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
- Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
- Green Bay Packers at New York Giants
- New England Patriots at New York Jets
- Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
- Houston Texans at Chicago Bears
- Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons
- New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
- Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans
- San Diego Chargers as New Orleans Saints
- New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
- New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens
- Detroit Lions at San Fransisco 49ers
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
- Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
- Super Bowl