BALTIMORE — At 11:58 p.m. on Saturday, police were called to the scene of a motorcycle accident in Virginia that left 19-year-old Tevin Jones dead.
His older brother, Ravens receiver Torrey Smith, was informed by an early-morning phone call that nobody ever wants to get.
Exactly 24 hours later, at 11:58 p.m. on Sunday, Smith was on the M&T Bank Stadium field, celebrating his team’s 31-30 last-second victory over the Patriots in which the second-year pro caught six passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
When the sun came up on Sunday, Smith was sequestered with his family, in shock at the family’s tragedy, his availability for the game understandably unknown. When the sun went down, under the bright lights, encouraged and supported by his extended family, Smith was arguably the game’s difference-maker.
Playing with the heaviest of hearts, Smith helped give the Ravens a chance to win a game in which they trailed by 13 in the first quarter and 9 points in the fourth quarter. Unlike the last time these teams played in January, when the Ravens missed a short field goal attempt that sent the Patriots to Super Bowl XLVI, this try was good, barely.
Smith had a big hand in it, and was emotionally drained afterward.
“I didn’t know how I would hold up, but thanks to my teammates, I just thank everyone on behalf of my family,” said Smith, who only had four catches for 108 yards (and no touchdowns) through the first two games. “It’s part of life and, due to my teammates and my family and friends, I’ll be able to get over it.”
“We dedicate that victory to Tevin and to the whole family,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “If you know Torrey, and you get to know the Smith family, you know that it’s a great family. Torrey is a great, great young man.”
Jones died when he lost control of the motorcycle he was driving and struck a utility pole. Police said alcohol was not a factor. Smith, after being notified, left the team hotel at 2 a.m. to be with his family, with the decision to play against the Patriots completely left up to him.
“If you’re around athletics, you feel like it’s an escape, it’s an opportunity to get out there and do what he does,” Harbaugh said. “When Torrey said he wanted to play, then the decision was finished. He was going to get the opportunity to play, he deserved that.”
There Smith was two hours before the game, one of the first Ravens on the field for warm-ups, and was in the starting lineup. He caught his first touchdown pass of the season in the second quarter, a 25-yarder from Joe Flacco in the left corner when he beat Kyle Arrington.
With the Ravens trailing, 30-21, and taking over with 7:29 left in the fourth quarter, Smith caught two passes on a 92-yard scoring drive. His 16-yard completion took the ball into Patriots’ territory; five plays later, Flacco found Smith for a second score, with 4:01 left, drawing the Ravens within 30-28, and setting the stage for the final, frantic minutes.
Earlier in the day, Smith posted two messages on his Twitter account, and two pictures of his brother.
“I can’t believe my little brother is gone…be thankful for your loved ones and tell them you love them…this is the hardest thing ever,” Smith wrote.
Later: “I can’t say a bad thing about him…proud to have him as a brother…RIP Tevin.”
Smith is a second-year pro who played at Maryland.
“This is devastatingly sad, sad news,” Harbaugh said in a statement earlier Sunday. “Our hearts ache today. We pray for Tevin, his mother, Torrey, and the rest of the family. God bless Tevin. … Torrey’s priority is his family. We understand that completely.”
Smith chose to work on Sunday, leaving the hurt behind for a few hours. He had his best game of his season on its darkest day, providing a few smiles, inspired by his brother’s memory.Michael Whitmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.