Check out the No. 16 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.
Sometimes football and the tragedy of real life intersect.
The Ravens were preparing for Sunday Night Football and a 2011 AFC Championship rematch with New England when devastating news reached one of their young standout players very early on Sept. 23, 2012.
Tevin Jones, the 19-year-old brother of second-year wide receiver Torrey Smith, had been killed in a motorcycle crash in northeast Virginia. Those who followed Smith’s career dating back to his University of Maryland days were familiar with his challenging upbringing in which he helped raise his younger siblings, compounding what was already such a sad loss of life.
Smith left the team hotel and returned to his home state to be with his family as anyone could have understood football being the last thing on his mind at such a devastating time. But the 23-year-old still wanted to play that night and arrived back at M&T Bank Stadium around 4 p.m. on very little sleep.
His emotions were raw as the team held a moment of silence and and a national TV audience watched Smith wipe tears from his face as he sat on the bench moments before kickoff. The game held meaning for the Ravens after their heartbreaking loss to the Patriots the previous January — a contest in which the 2011 second-round pick scored a key second-half touchdown — but that story line took a backseat to Smith’s individual efforts less than 24 hours after his brother’s death.
The night started poorly for the Ravens, who trailed 13-0 and managed just 21 net yards in the first quarter. They finally awoke for the first drive of the second period, steadily moving the ball to the New England 25. On the 13th play of the drive, quarterback Joe Flacco threw the ball up to Smith, who hovered in the air to high-point a terrific touchdown catch over Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington.
It was Smith’s first catch of the game as he rested on one knee, pointed to the sky, and bowed his head before teammates congratulated him and a crowd of more than 71,000 began chanting, “Torrey, Torrey!” as he jogged to the sideline. Baltimore had cut the deficit to 13-7, and that touchdown alone would have been special enough even if Smith hadn’t caught another pass for the rest of the night.
But he was far from done.
Having already eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark for the third time in his young career, Smith went back to work as the Ravens trailed 30-21 midway through the fourth quarter. His 16-yard reception put the offense in New England territory as the Ravens continued driving to the 5-yard line. With just over four minutes remaining, Flacco scrambled to his right and made a tight-window sideline throw to Smith, who grabbed the touchdown against Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty.
Once again, the “Torrey, Torrey!” chants echoed.
Now trailing 30-28, the Baltimore defense got a stop on the next series and Flacco moved the offense back into field goal range before a pass interference penalty set up a chip shot for rookie kicker Justin Tucker. His 27-yard attempt barely squeaked inside the right upright — or did it? — as time expired to give the Ravens a controversial 31-30 victory and a sliver of revenge for the previous postseason disappointment.
The teams would meet again in the AFC Championship four months later with the Ravens prevailing on the way to their second Super Bowl championship, but that Week 3 win is remembered for the courage and dedication Smith showed in catching six passes for 127 yards and those two touchdowns. It was an inspiration for anyone who watched.
“This is new territory for me personally. I never really had to deal with a death in the family, let alone my brother,” said Smith after receiving a game ball in the emotional post-game locker room. “I didn’t want to hurt my team. I came here, [and] the more I was running, the more comfortable I started to feel.
“I’m glad I came back up here. I think it helped me out a lot.”