For Ravens rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith, Sunday Night was one hell of an emotional roller coaster ride in Pittsburgh. He had a huge hand in his team’s very first, and very last, offensive plays; both of which initially appeared to be touchdowns.
The first, a Ray Rice 76-yard run, was of course called back due to a very ticky-tack holding penalty on Smith. Later on in the same drive, Torrey caught a 12-yard fade pass from Joe Flacco that probably should have been a touchdown. Though he drew a pass interference flag on the play, Smith was unable to get both feet in bounds (by a toe) and the Ravens would ultimately settle for a field goal.
On the Ravens’ next possession, Smith would again experience the ups and downs of NFL life, this time on back-to-back plays. On 2nd-and-9 from their own 44, Flacco threw deep down the right sideline for Smith, who had Steelers cornerback William Gay beat by two steps. Torrey appeared to short-arm the attempted catch, and the ball fell to the earth incomplete. He probably should have had it.
Undeterred, Joe again went to Torrey on the very next snap. This time, he (intentionally, if you believe Cris Colinsworth) underthrew Smith, who made an excellent adjustment on the ball and hauled it in, despite having to catch Pittsburgh DB Keenan Lewis’ arm as well. The reception was good for 29 yards and set the Ravens up at the Steelers’ 27-yard line. Unfortunately, kicker Billy Cundiff would miss a 40-yard field goal four plays later.
Smith’s night was just getting started though.
On 1st-and-10 from their own 23 midway through the second quarter, Flacco found Torrey open on a 12-yard out route that would have moved the chains.
The ball bounced right off Torrey’s chest, and the Ravens punted three plays later.
In the fourth quarter, things really picked up in the world of #82.
Looking a 3-and-out in the face on 3rd-and-10 after Pittsburgh had just closed to within a field goal, Flacco found Smith on a 14-yard slant to move the ball to the Ravens” 34 yard line.
Unfortunately, James Harrison would cause a Flacco fumble later in the drive, but Smith’s catch was still a crucial one. A 3-and-out in that situation wouldn’t have been any less damning than what ultimately occurred on the series. It should also be noted that it was Smith who made the tackle on Gay, who had recovered the fumble at the Pittsburgh 40.
Next came the sequence that Torrey, and Ravens fans, will never forget.
Having driven from their own 8-yard line, trailing by four points, the Ravens were within striking distance of a miracle comeback win in the Steel City, looking at 2nd-and-8 from the Pittsburgh 37 with 42 seconds on the clock.
To this point in the drive, Smith had been a non-factor, with zero targets. Flacco made a great move to step up in the pocket and avoid pressure, and threw for Torrey in the end zone. The rookie had Pittsburgh’s best cornerback, Ike Taylor, beaten by two steps.
The ball was there.
The go-ahead score was there.
And it went right through Torrey’s hands.
You could feel the city of Baltimore collectively deflate.
Sure, it was a difficult catch, but it’s one that an NFL wide receiver has to make. As Michael Irvin said on NFL Network, that’s not a ball that you often see not get caught in the NFL.
As angry as Ravens fans were, we couldn’t help but feel bad for Torrey. We all know the story of his troubled upbringing, many of us cheered for him at the University of Maryland, and we want so badly for the young man to succeed. To see him fail so blatantly, so horrifically, at the worst possible moment was almost too much to stomach. Just insult to the injury of yet another loss to the hated Steelers.
But hey, I look at it like this now: Torrey knew that 42 seconds was too much time to give Ben Roethlisberger to potenially move Pittsburgh into field goal range to tie the game and send it to overtime.
He was just being a team player.
A first down and two incomplete passes later (including another drop, this time by Anquan Boldin), Smith found himself in the same situation, this time down the opposite sideline. With only eight seconds remaining on the clock, Torrey felt confident that NOW was the right time to make the game-winning touchdown reception.
After all the ups and downs of his night to that point, Torrey finished on the highest of high notes, and completely redeemed himself for all of his earlier miscues.
With the victory secured, the time was now right for at least one of Smith’s teammates to razz him a bit for his earlier mistakes:
Smith’s first touchdown grab since he caught three in one quarter back in Week 3 in St. Louis couldn’t have come at a better time. While the rookie certainly needs to get more consistent, plays like this will only add to his confidence moving forward. He has struggled at times, but overall has played very well considering he did not benefit from offseason OTAs and that he was unexpectedly thrown into a starting role with the lingering injury to Lee Evans.
It was great to not only see the Ravens pull off the heart-pounding victory on Sunday night, but also to see Torrey get his redemption.