Torrey Smith set his heartache aside, with help from his Baltimore Ravens family, and then went out to help lead them over the New England Patriots.
Baltimore Ravens' Torrey Smith 'glad' he came back to play
Torrey Smith showed up at the stadium tired and drained, unsure if he would suit up for the Baltimore Ravens.
No one would have blamed him if he had not. After all, his younger brother had died in a motorcycle accident less than 24 hours earlier.
Smith opted to play, and the second-year wide receiver caught touchdown passes of 25 and five yards to help the Ravens beat the New England Patriots 31-30 on Sunday night in a rematch of last season's AFC title game.
Tevin Jones, 19, died late on Saturday night in Virginia. Smith left the team hotel at 1am on Sunday and spent much of the day with his family before heading back to Baltimore.
"I texted my mom when I got to the stadium. That was when I knew I was going to play," Smith said. "She was excited about it. She said, 'He'd want you to play'."
With his teammates offering him encouragement and prayers, Smith contributed heavily. He had six catches for 127 yards to help Baltimore (2-1) win, their 12th successive home victory.
"I gave him a psalm," teammate Ed Reed said. "God's in control, and God has a bigger plan than ours."
Ray Rice, who ran for 101 yards, praised Smith for his determination and courage.
"He's a stronger man than I am," Rice said. "If I had to face death within hours of playing the game, that would be a tough decision. He's got two families, and he knows we have his back."
Upon arriving at the stadium, the familiar surroundings helped Smith get ready to go.
"When I came here, the more I was grounded. The more comfortable I began to feel," he said. "I'm glad I came back up here. It helped me out a lot."
John Harbaugh, the coach, said: "If you're around athletics, I guess you feel like it's an escape, an opportunity to do what he does. He's being doing it his whole life. He knows what to do. When Torrey said he wanted to play, the decision was finished. He was going to get the opportunity to play. He deserved that."
A moment of silence was observed before the game for Smith's brother.
"That touched me right there," Smith said.
"That the organisation would honour my brother, one of my family members, who had absolutely nothing to do with this programme besides me."
When the teams met in January, the Patriots squeezed out a three-point win at home to advance to the Super Bowl. The stakes were not nearly as high in this one, yet the game eerily similar.
In the previous meeting, Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds. On Sunday, the rookie Justin Tucker - who took the job away from Cundiff in training camp - drove his 27-yard kick just inside the right upright as time expired to give the Ravens their victory.
The game winner followed a pass interference call against Devin McCourty, who was covering Jacoby Jones.
"It's a football game and we can't control that," McCourty said. "If a flag is thrown, that's something we can't worry about."
As the officials were leaving the field, Bill Belichick, the Patriots coach, grabbed one of them by the arm, but the official continued to run off the field.
"I'm not going to comment on that," Belichick said. "You saw the game. What did we have, 30 penalties called in that game?"
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