'Guarantee' turns from confident to laughable

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It would be completely inaccurate to say the Steelers' secondary didn't have a prayer against Tom Brady, Randy Moss and the New England Patriots yesterday.

Right after Moss made toast of cornerback Ike Taylor and safety Anthony Smith to pull in a 63-yard touchdown pass from Brady in the second quarter and only moments after Brady got in Smith's face to remind him that you have to be awfully young and awfully dumb to wave a red cape in front of a proud and ultra-talented opponent, the Steelers' defensive backs got down on their hands and knees in a circle on the sideline, asking for a little divine intervention.

Obviously, it didn't work.

Hence the chants of "Guarantee!" in the final moments from a thrilled Gillette Stadium crowd that watched their unbeaten heroes take another step toward NFL history with a ridiculously easy 34-13 victory against the Steelers to go to 13-0. They were directed, of course, at Smith, the second-year safety who was all over the national sports news last week with his silly, sorry guarantee that the Steelers would win.

"If you talk that [stuff], you've got to back it up," Steelers linebacker James Farrior said.

Smith didn't.

The Patriots were only too glad to remind him of it during and after the game.

There was the great Brady, taking time out from making another statement that he's the best quarterback of all time, searching out Smith on the field after Moss beat Taylor on an in route for a 4-yard touchdown and a 7-3 New England lead. Asked what he said to Smith, Brady laughed and said, "I don't care to repeat it, especially if my mother reads it. She wouldn't be very happy with what I said."

Teammate James Harrison rushed to Smith's defense, giving Brady a little love tap to get him away from Smith. But there was no saving Smith from ridicule in the Patriots' locker room after the game.

Even New England's staid coach, Bill Belichick, couldn't help getting in on the fun at Smith's expense. It was Smith who, along with Taylor, bit on a play fake and was beaten on a 63-yard touchdown pass to Moss in the second quarter.

"We've played against a lot better safeties than him, I'll tell you." Ouch.

But there was more from Belichick when he was asked about a 56-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jabar Gaffney in the third quarter. On the play, Brady lateraled to Moss, who threw back across the field to Brady, who found Gaffney all alone behind, yep, you know who.

"Well, again, the safety play at that position was pretty inviting," Belichick said.

Talk about piling on.

Smith had it coming, the Patriots said.

"There's nothing wrong with confidence, don't get me wrong," cornerback Ellis Hobbs said. "You have to have a swagger out on the field. But there's a fine line and he definitely crossed it. He was definitely knocked down when he crossed it today."

Smith, for his part, tried to shrug off the abuse, expressing regret only for making mistakes and giving up the two big plays. He even talked bravely of getting another shot at the Patriots next month. "If we do what we're supposed to do, we're going to be back."

If the Steelers do get to face the Patriots in the AFC playoffs, it's fair to assume coach Mike Tomlin will put a muzzle on Smith before the game. Tomlin clearly was irritated about that guarantee foolishness. He also couldn't have liked that Smith didn't stop there. Smith said the Cincinnati Bengals' receivers were better than the Brady Bunch -- Moss, Gaffney, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth.

"He basically called us out," Gaffney said.

Moss had seven catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Gaffney had seven for 122 and a score. Welker had nine for 78 yards and a touchdown.

"He's young. He'll learn," Gaffney said of Smith.

This loss wasn't all on Smith, of course. The Steelers' defense as a whole didn't show up. Brady wasn't sacked and threw for 399 yards and the four touchdowns, prompting his Steelers' counterpart, Ben Roethlisberger, to gush, "It truly is an honor to watch such a great quarterback play the game."

Here's the really frightening part about this game, especially if you dare to look ahead to a January rematch: The Steelers came in with a plan to take away the Brady-to-Moss connection by matching Taylor -- "our biggest guy, our fastest guy," Tomlin said -- against Moss all over the field.

That didn't work out too well.

"He's a freak of nature," Taylor said of Moss. "Once every blue moon [a player] comes out like him. His ball skills are just unbelievable, the way he locates the ball. His speed, too. They can say he's getting old, but there's nothing slow about Moss."

It was Moss who took the final shot at Smith.

Just say it was appropriate.

"They did their talking throughout the week. We did our talking on the field today."

Ron Cook can be reached at rcook@post-gazette.com .


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