Torrey Smith faces new challenge in Talib

Torrey Smith faces new challenge in Talib
January 14, 2013, 5:30 pm
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Torrey Smith: 'We have a different team this year'

In the last half of the season, Torrey Smith had become a forgotten piece of the Ravens’ once high-powered offense.

He started with a bang, making a 52-yard grab on the first play of the season. Smith had a breakout performance in Week 3 against the New England Patriots with six catches for 127 yards and two TDs in a 31-30 victory less than 24 hours after his younger brother was killed in a motorcycle accident.

Smith had just one touchdown cacth in the last eight games going into Saturday’s divisional playoff game at the Denver Broncos. He had three catches for 98 yards, two of them TDs by beating Champ Bailey in one-on-one coverage, in a 38-35 upset victory.

“After I scored the first time he was like, ‘Great play, man.' I have a lot of respect for Champ Bailey,” said Smith, who got inside of him and down the middle of the field for a 59-yard strike to tie the score at 7. Later, Smith scored from 32 yards to tie the score again at 21.  “He is one of my favorite guys to watch growing up. He conducts himself as a pro, even though he is one of the best corners to play the game. … He was just talking -- no cockiness, no trash-talking -- even though he has every right to. I have a lot of respect for him.”

Smith had his way with the Patriots’ Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington earlier this season.

In last year’s 23-20 AFC title loss to the Patriots, Smith had three catches for 82 yards and one touchdown. His 29-yard TD catch in the third quarter put the Ravens up 17-16.

Smith will get a different look Sunday when the Ravens travel to meet the Patriots for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. The Patriots acquired cornerback Aqib Talib in a trade with the Tampa Bay Bucs in November. He was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Since his acquisition, Talib has been the Patriots' best cover corner. The book on Smith had been to play him physical in bump-and-run coverage to knock him off his routes. He has had trouble at times this season, finding it difficult to link up with quarterback Joe Flacco. But Smith made Bailey pay for it.

“He is a great corner. He is a play-maker,” Smith said of Talib. “He is more of a man-coverage guy, but they kind of do more zone stuff up there. I’m sure he is versatile and can do a little bit of both.”