FOXBOROUGH — For a moment, Steve Smith all but unfolded his lounge chair, dug it into the sands of Revis Island, and sipped a pina colada.
Only 10 minutes and 16 seconds had elapsed in the game, but Smith already had three catches for 44 yards — the third resulting in a 9-yard touchdown when Smith cleanly beat Darrelle Revis on an inside release with 4:44 to play in the first quarter.
But it was Revis who ultimately got the best of Smith, who finished with just those three catches as the Patriots claimed a 35-31 victory in Saturday’s AFC divisional-round game at Gillette Stadium.
“He was very tough, he’s always tough, even the battles in the past we had, it’s playoffs and there’s a lot on the line,” Revis said of Smith.
“I’m sure he has the will to want to win, but it was great. He caught a touchdown earlier in the game and after that he got erased, so . . . ”
For Revis, an eight-year veteran, there was no panicking after letting up the early score.
“At this point, there’s a lot of great teams with great players on them. It’s a dogfight,” Revis said. “At the end of the day, it matters who comes out with the win. He caught a touchdown, that’s great, but we made adjustments and did things where he didn’t catch a ball again.”
Coming into the game, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was 0 for 5 in his career when targeting Revis, according to Pro Football Focus.
Early on, it was clear Flacco wasn’t going to shy away from Revis, the Ravens taking a 14-0 lead on his strike to Smith.
“They came out fast, jumped on us fast, and we kind of fell behind with a 14-0 lead and we’ve got to give them credit,” Revis said. “Their game plan was very well thought out and how they wanted to attack us and that’s what they did. Our thing for us was to settle down and once we did and figured out what they were doing, we started making plays.”
After early success, the well ran dry for Smith.
He got injured toward the end of the first quarter and he wasn’t targeted again until there were 32 seconds left in the half. Flacco looked deep down the field to Smith, and as Smith came back to the ball, Revis was flagged for pass interference.
“Don’t agree with that call. Definitely don’t because I play the ball right. But the refs make the call and that’s it,” said Revis who was called for pass interference just once during the regular season.
“For me, personally, pass interference I don’t care. I’m going to play aggressive. We don’t have that much of an advantage anyways how the new rules are, and I’m not complaining, if I get a pass interference, it is what it is.”
Late in the third quarter, Revis was called for a holding penalty that negated Jamie Collins’s strip sack that would have given the Patriots the ball at the Baltimore 4-yard line.
“Yeah, it’s a tough game. There were a lot of penalties, lot of scrapping out there, pushing, tugging, back and forth,” Revis said. “Receivers push off and that’s what it is, you push off and you pull. I pulled. They called me and that’s that.”
Flacco didn’t target Smith again until there was 10:29 left in the game.
Smith, wiping back tears after the game, said he was “not disappointed by any means and it was a hard-fought game. I give hats off to the New England Patriots. We battled our tails off and it was a fun game.”
Smith, who entered the game with two career catches against Revis, had nothing but praise for the Patriots’ corner.
“Every team does not have a great corner like Revis and it was a game like a chess match,” Smith said. “There were times we both did some savvy veteran moves against each other and it was a great battle. I respect the heck out of him and he played a great game. He is a good player.”
Anthony Gulizia can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyGulizia.