That lesson was fully realized at 3:06 in the fourth quarter during Sunday's game between the Patriots and Steelers. With New England up 34-13 the thunderous chant "GUAR -AN-TEE! GUAR-AN-TEE! GUAR-AN-TEE! GUAR-AN-TEE!" reverberated around Gillette Stadium with authority. It was directed right at No. 27 on the Steelers sideline. Smith, a second year player, was bold enough to arrogantly guarantee a victory against the three-time Super Bowl champs and putting down the Patriots receiving corp.
Smith seemingly ignored the mocking cheers from the New England faithful and stood with his back toward the crowd. All he could do was chat with his fellow defensive backs as he received a heavy dose of "Humble Pie" New England style.
The humbling not only came from the fans, it came on the field. In the second quarter, Smith bit hard on the play action pass that led to Moss catching a 63 yard score down the middle of the field. Then Smith was burned again when Smith and the rest of the Steelers' secondary were fooled badly in the third quarter by the Patriots double laterally gadget play which ended in a 56 yard Tom Brady to Jabar Gaffney touchdown connection. The pass went right over Smith's outstretched right hand.
Patriots receiver Randy Moss said beating Smith on the gadget play made it so much sweeter. "It was us executing on all cylinders by the whole unit. It was a great call by Josh McDaniels and we just had to go out there and once [Brady] threw to me and I threw it back him and he threw it up and everybody was like, 'Uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh.' And then, it was caught on [Anthony] Smith it was all on Jabar [Gaffney] catching it on No. 27 [Smith.] It was really worth it."
Smith, who has yet to earn pro bowl, player of the week or any other league honor, failed to give the Patriots credit for torching the so-called best passing defense in the league.
"We just gave up some big plays and that is what it came down to," said Smith downplaying the game as he picked pieces of crow from his teeth. "They have got a good offense, but we just beat ourselves. We didn't play all of our right keys and gave up some deep plays. They came up with some new gadget plays that we haven't seen and that is pretty much what it was. Besides that one play-action play that they hit for the touchdown, that is all the play-action we saw."
The Steelers talked a good game, but the Patriots showed, as they've always showed in the last seven years, when pushed and when their pride is attacked, they will push and talk back. After the first Patriots score, Tom Brady got right in Smith's face to talk some smack. "There's always just a little jawing," said a smiling Brady. "I don't care to repeat what I said No matter what you say during the week, it comes down to how you play."
The Patriots seem to want to make a point to Smith that he's not ready for the big time. After the game, head coach Bill Belichick even weighed in on Smith's grab for attention. "We've played against a lot better safeties than him, I'll tell you," Belichick said.
Randy Moss also addressed Smith's comments. "I've played in the league for 10 years and I don't think I've ever heard a player ever say anything like that," said Moss. "There's trash-taking each week, but just to guarantee a victory — that's something hard. I don't know if his teammates had his back or whatnot, but it was said, it was documented and it was printed. It came to us and we went out there today and you [could] see we wanted it more."
|Randy Moss #81 of the New England Patriots reacts as he walks by Anthony Smith #27 of the Pittsburgh Steelers after a penalty was called in the third quarter at Gillette Stadium December 9, 2007 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots won 34-13. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)|
This is Moss' first year in New England, but it isn't the first time opposing players have given "bulletin board" material for pre-game motivation.
In the week prior to Super Bowl XXXIX, Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell was asked to name each member of the Patriots' secondary. Mitchell said he didn't know them by name, only by number, and proceeded to intentionally get each of their numbers wrong. He concluded saying he knew that No. 37 is Rodney Harrison and that he's "got something for him." This immediately got back to the Patriots and Harrison, who said "[Mitchell] really talks big for a first round bust." Belichick later called Mitchell "terrible" after Freddie finished the Super Bowl with one catch for 11 yards. Prior to the start of training camp the following year, Mitchell was released by the Eagles. Mitchell and is now out of the league.
Another famous player who didn't know when to keep his mouth closed was former Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt. After the Colts routed the Broncos in the wild-card round of the 2004 playoffs, he told reporters that the Patriots were "ripe for the picking," and "I think they're not as good as the beginning of the year and not as good as last year (when the were Super Bowl champs)." Harrison shot back at him in an interview; calling him "Vander-jerk" The Patriots eventually defeated the Colts 20-3, highlighted by Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi stripping the ball from Dominic Rhodes. He held up the football and said "I think this is what they were looking for! They ain't got it! They ain't got it!" he said brashly.
The most notable of those who have boasted about playing the Patriots was former Pittsburgh Steeler Kordell Stewart. Before the Steelers and Patriots match up in the 2001 AFC Championship game, Stewart waxed poetic on how he could not wait to go home to New Orleans to play in the Super Bowl and that his reservations have already been made, completely overlooking the upstart Patriots. After the game, Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest chanted "cancel those reservations!"
Announcer Jim Nance may have said it best on Sunday during CBS' telecast. "It is so old. It is so unoriginal. It is so stupid to say," said Nance of Smith's guarantee. "Just because you say something dumb and get on TV a lot, doesn't mean you won't get on TV and be made a fool of by Tom Brady."
Smith said he couldn't wait to see the Patriots again in the playoffs, much like Patrick Crayton of the Dallas Cowboys did after New England humbled the Cowboys in Texas Stadium earlier in the season.
Crayton's nostrils may still be burning with the smell of popcorn emanating from the visitor's locker room following the Patriots Week six 48-27 thumping of the Cowboys. During the week leading up to the game another loudmouth, Terrell Owens, wrote a letter to the media informing them to "Getcha popcorn ready."
He wrote "Dear Reporters, Due to the magnitude of this week's game and high volume of questions for the Original 81 about the other 81 [Randy Moss]. I will be taking all questions immediately following Sunday's game. Sincerely: Terrell Owens." The Patriots had their popcorn ready and celebrated with a big popcorn party in the locker room after the game.
When will the rest of the NFL learn to stop talking and just play football? Sure, they may still get beat by the Patriots, but at least they'll have their dignity.
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