BOSTON (CBS) — Long before an official’s penalty flag became the central story line of Monday night’s Patriots-Panthers game, cornerback Aqib Talib and wide receiver Steve Smith ignited some fireworks early.
Part of the pregame discussion involved the two players, who were expected to do their fair share of trash-talking throughout. Yet things got out of hand quickly.
On the second play of the Panthers’ second drive, Smith burned past Talib to haul in a 42-yard reception. Three plays later, Smith made a catch on third-and-3 to move the chains and keep the Panthers’ drive alive, but he was denied the chance to celebrate because Talib was holding the receiver’s leg and refused to let go. The two then engaged in a bit of Greco-Roman style wrestling, with Talib getting called for a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.
Later in the drive, Smith shoved Talib away from the play, and the two again locked horns, with Talib grabbing Smith’s facemask after the two exchanged shoves.
It was Smith who had the last laugh, as his Panthers came away with a 24-20 win, albeit a controversial one. Smith finished with four receptions for 62 yards. Talib also dealt with a recurrence of his hip injury, which apparently did not heal during his five-week hiatus.
Smith, 34, took note of the injury and got in one last bit of trash talk in a postgame interview with NFL Network’s Albert Breer.
“I don’t know, you gotta ask him,” Smith said when asked what happened between him and Talib. “He didn’t finish the game. Ice up, son. Ice up.”
Smith said much more in the locker room to USA Today.
“A guy like that, he can say whatever he wants to, but actions speak louder than words. I could tell that he was anxious — he was nervous. We didn’t speak afterwards. I just let my play speak for me,” Smith said. “Holding my leg and not letting me go? I play with my kids like that sometimes, but other than that, I really haven’t had that. Just another notch on the bedpost.”
Talib, for his part, seemed to have gotten his fill during the game, as he elected to not fan any flames when talking with the media after the game.
“Just two competitive guys going at it, man,” Talib said of his tussles with Smith.
When asked if he spoke with Smith after the game, Talib said, “Hell no. Ain’t nothing to talk about.”
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