Smith Leads But Still Follows

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Troy Smith's  first series in the Ravens' 23-0 win over the Washington Redskins could have wilted a less-determined quarterback.

Two consecutive incompletions to Justin Harper – both intended for long strikes – went through the lanky wideout's outstretched hands.

Then on third down, Smith's pass to Marcus Smith also fell to the turf, forcing a punt.

And even though he hit tight end L.J. Smith with a 35-yard pass on his next drive, the offense stalled when Ernie Wheelwright and Harper both did not catch the quarterback's intended passes.

But Troy Smith's resolve showed when the Ravens had a final opportunity in the first half, as the former Heisman Trophy winner led a textbook two-minute drill to score Baltimore's only touchdown with only 1:12 left on the clock.

When asked about his 19-yard touchdown pass to Harper with 11 seconds remaining, the ever-humble Smith would only direct the praise to his coaches and teammates.

"That's the type of offense we are. We're a no-huddle offense," Smith said. "So, I'm not going to say that's a walk in the park, but we're pretty much used to that. We practice that type of tempo and that type of atmosphere almost every day in practice. The guys did a tremendous job up front making certain calls.

"The Redskins' defense is a tremendous defense. They did some things that shook us up, that rattled us up, but we stayed the course, and those guys made crucial catches down the line."

It was Harper who bounced back from his early miscues. Sure, Smith may have placed the football on his initial two passes outside of the 6-foot-3 receiver's reach, but a quarterback needs players to make plays, as well.

Harper was just thankful that Smith held faith in him.

"It was huge… the fact that Troy still wanted to come back to me and still had faith in me," said Harper, who led all Ravens receivers with four receptions for 57 yards. "I still had some drops after that, but again, he still came to me. So that's the best part, I'm still growing up."

And Smith is doing his best to bring Baltimore's young wideouts up to speed with his trademark leadership and coolness under pressure.

Regularly in Thursday night's game, Smith was forced out of the pocket to elude Washington's ferocious pass rush, but he continually outran his pursuers.

On the touchdown, Smith simply lofted a rainbow over Harper's shoulder in the right corner of the end zone.

"I give Troy a lot of credit for that," head coach John Harbaugh said. "That's what a leader does. He had two drops on him and he came back in a critical situation. Eleven seconds left in the half, went right back to him. Obviously, Justin got it done and that just shows you the mental toughness and confidence. That was good."

Smith was impressive. Despite the drops from his receivers and pressure up front, he finished 14-of-30 for 200 yards and no interceptions or sacks.

As much as Smith thinks he can be a regular starter in the NFL, of which his performance shows flashes, he continues to be the consummate team player.

Smith knows that Joe Flacco is the Ravens' first quarterback, but he is certainly a more-than-capable backup.

"The sky's the limit for both of us," Smith said. "I continue to learn from Joe on a day-in and day-out basis. He's an incredible leader for our team, and I'm going to do nothing but follow right now."

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