Torrey Smith showed up at the stadium tired and drained, unsure if he would suit up for the Baltimore Ravens.
No one would have blamed him if he didn't. After all, his younger brother had died in a motorcycle accident less than 24 hours earlier.
Smith opted to play, and the second-year wide receiver caught touchdown passes of 25 and 5 yards to help the Ravens beat the New England Patriots 31-30 Sunday night in a rematch of the AFC title game.
Tevin Jones, 19, died late Saturday night in Virginia. Smith left the team hotel at 1 a.m. Sunday and spent much of the day with his family before heading back to Baltimore.
"I texted my mom when I got to the stadium. That was when I knew I was going to play," Smith said. "She was excited about it. She said, 'He'd want you to play.'"
With his teammates offering him encouragement and prayers, Smith not only played, but contributed heavily. He had six catches for 127 yards to help Baltimore (2-1) win its 12th straight at home.
"I gave him a psalm," teammate Ed Reed said. "God's in control, and God has a bigger plan than ours."
Ray Rice, who ran for 101 yards, praised Smith for his determination and courage.
"He's a stronger man than I am," Rice said. "If I had to face death within hours of playing the game, that would be a tough decision. He's got two families, and he knows we have his back."
Upon arriving at the stadium, the familiar surroundings helped Smith get ready to go.
"When I came here, the more I was grounded. The more comfortable I began to feel," he said. "I'm glad I came back up here. It helped me out a lot."
Coach John Harbaugh said: "If you're around athletics, I guess you feel like it's an escape, an opportunity to do what he does. He's being doing it his whole life; he knows what to do. When Torrey said he wanted to play, the decision was finished. He was going to get the opportunity to play. He deserved that."
A moment of silence was observed before the game for Smith's brother.
"That touched me right there," Smith said. "That the organization would honor my brother, one of my family members who had absolutely nothing to do with this program besides me."
When the teams met in January, the Patriots squeezed out a three-point win at home to advance to the Super Bowl. The stakes weren't nearly as high in this one, yet the game was eerily similar.
In the previous meeting, Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds. In the encore, rookie Justin Tucker — who took the job away from Cundiff in training camp — drove his 27-yard kick just inside the right upright.
"It's a football game and we can't control that," McCourty said. "If a flag is thrown, that's something we can't worry about."
As the officials were leaving the field, Patriots coach Bill Belichick grabbed one of them by the arm. He didn't pursue as the official continued to run off the field.
"I'm not going to comment on that," Belichick said. "You saw the game. What did we have, 30 penalties called in that game?"
Actually, 24 — including 14 against the Ravens for 135 yards.
Joe Flacco went 28 for 39 for 382 yards and three touchdowns for the Ravens, who amassed 503 yards in offense.
Tom Brady completed 28 of 41 passes for 335 yards and a score as the Patriots (1-2) fell below .500 for the first time since Week 1 of 2003.
"We didn't move the ball consistently enough to score points, score touchdowns," Brady said.
But Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said, "We didn't do what we needed to do to help our offense tonight."
New England led 13-0 after the first quarter and 30-21 with 14 minutes left, but couldn't make either lead stand up.
Down 20-14, the Ravens opened the second half with an 80-yard drive that ended with a 7-yard touchdown run by Rice. Brady matched that with an 80-yard march of his own, repeatedly picking on cornerback Cary Williams, before Danny Woodhead scored on a 3-yard run to put New England ahead.
After Stephen Gostkowski kicked his third field goal to make it 30-21, Smith caught a 5-yard touchdown pass with 4:01 left to get the Ravens to 30-28. Flacco went 6 for 7 for 76 yards in the 92-yard drive.
Baltimore executed the game-winning drive in the final 2 minutes.
Brady answered with a touchdown pass of his own, a 7-yarder to Julian Edelman with 2 seconds left to cap an 81-yard, beat-the-clock march.
NOTES: Brady moved into 12th place on the career yardage list, past Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana (40,551). ... Flacco's ninth 300-yard passing game passed Vinny Testaverde for most in Ravens history. ... Edelman left with a hand injury. ... Baltimore punted only three times.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.