Smith's game-saving plays highlight promise for next season

Smith's game-saving plays highlight promise for next season
February 4, 2013, 3:00 pm
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NEW ORLEANS -- Before the Super Bowl, cornerback Jimmy Smith's season had been an extreme disappointment.
After Sunday's 34-31 win vs. the San Francisco 49ers, the second-year player experienced somewhat of a rebirth which could prove to be a springboard for next season. 
With the 49ers trying to get the go-ahead TD with less than two minutes remaining from the Ravens' 5, quarterback Colin Kaepernick targeted Smith. 
Smith, who lost a battle in training camp with Cary Williams, broke up a third-down pass to Michael Crabtree, their best receiver, and then fought him off to force an incompletion on fourth down.
“How does it get any bigger than the Super Bowl on the last drive? ... He played great," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "Jimmy has been practicing very well. He finally got healthy at the end the year there."
When Lardarius Webb went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 6, Smith had his chance.
He was exploited on double moves by the Dallas Cowboys and the following game vs. the Houston Texans. Smith, the Ravens' biggest corner at 6-2, was playing with a hernia and opted to get surgery that kept him out of the starting lineup. He missed five games, and Corey Graham, who was signed for special teams, was more than adequate in Smith's place. 
Smith played 12 snaps in a regular-season game vs. the Denver Broncos, but admitted that he still wasn't ready. His speed wasn't there. 
He played 18 Sunday. His timing was much better, and he had size and strength to combat Crabtree in the end zone.
"He was at his best the last couple weeks. Jimmy is going to be, like we said all along, a great player in this league," Harbaugh said. "I love him. He is really special."