FOXBORO, Ma. – Anthony Smith took it all – the criticism from his captain, his coach, the other team’s coach, the other team’s captain, the media, even the scoreboard operator at Gillette Stadium who replayed Smith’s guarantee of a Steelers win amidst the crowd’s joyful chanting – and he faced the media and answered every last question.
What did Smith think of the near-crazed reaction to his comments?
“I wasn’t worried about that,” he said. “When we come back, we’ll have our opportunity again.”
One of the New England reporters wanted to know if Smith was making another guarantee.
“Are you trying to make me make another guarantee?” the wisened Smith said.
The reporter repeated the question.
“If we do what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to be back here,” he answered.
Smith told reporters that that’s what he said to begin with, that he didn’t flat out guarantee a win.
“If he’d have quoted me right, he would’ve understood what I said,” Smith said. “I said if we come out and do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll win the game. We didn’t do that. We gave up some big plays and that’s what happens.”
Smith, in fact, gave up the biggest plays. He bit on a play-action fake that left Randy Moss wide open for a 63-yard touchdown pass. Later, Smith came up hard from his free safety position to stop what he thought would be another New England bubble screen. It was instead a lateral pass that Moss lateraled back to Tom Brady, who threw it 56 yards to Jabar Gaffney for another score.
Smith was the focal point before the game, during the game, and after the game. Did he have any regrets?
“You take what you get and move on,” he said. “Like I said, we came here to win. We come into every game to win. For us to come here and say we’re going to try to win is really not our character. We’ve just got to get them next time.”
The reaction by his teammates and coaches was mixed as to whether the guarantee provided a tangible benefit for the Patriots.
“Those comments didn’t mean anything,” said coach Mike Tomlin. “At 4:15, what was said during the week was irrelevant. It’s about what you do and how you play. After a performance like that, when they beat us up, then, yeah, you can point back to that comment. But that’s a good football team. I doubt that those comments were a motivating factor in terms of how they performed today. They were a better team today. They beat us.”
“No,” was Deshea Townsend’s answer. “We don’t care nothing about the stadium, it’s about plays. We gave up plays we normally don’t give up. It’s always our job to make teams go the hard route and we gave up some big plays today.”
“I don’t think so,” said James Farrior. “That didn’t have anything to do with the game. People say the trick plays were designed to beat him. Well, if you coach like that then I don’t think you’re going to be a good coach.”
“Absolutely,” said Brett Keisel. “Absolutely they were motivated. When someone guarantees a win, absolutely that’s going to affect how a team looks at you, and they came ready to go.”
“Oh it definitely did,” said Ben Roethlisberger. “I had a couple of their guys, while I was coming on the field during a TV timeout, say ‘Why are your guys opening their mouth? We’re so fired up out there.’ And I told them we just have some young guys.”
One of those who spoke openly this week isn’t so young. Tyrone Carter felt he and the defensive backs would be able to muscle Moss and the Patriots receivers into a poor game.
“They’ve got three good receivers,” Carter said. “But my focus point is still on the quarterback. That quarterback makes that team ride. He gets them in the right plays and he changes to the right plays when he sees what we’re doing. He did a great job of doing that. But we can’t make mistakes on the back end like that.”