FOXBOROUGH — In addition to the score, one of the most entertaining aspects to Monday night’s game was the ongoing battle between Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib and Carolina receiver Steve Smith.
Both made plays: Smith had four catches for 62 yards, including a 42-yard deep ball. Talib broke up two passes.
No matter what one did, he let the other know about it, loudly and with plenty of animation. Talib was flagged 15 yards for unnecessary roughness when he made like Jeff Van Gundy and hung on Smith’s leg like a tire swing.
Two days after the 24-20 Patriots loss, Talib had nothing but nice things to say about Smith, who left the field with one final piece of trash talk directed at the corner who covered him most of the game until a sore hip forced him out.
“He didn’t finish the game,” said Smith as he walked off the field. “Ice up, son. Ice up.”
Asked for his reaction Wednesday to Smith’s comments, Talib smiled.
“I’m done with Steve for the year,” Talib said. “Great game, great competitor. I always enjoy going up against Steve.”
Talib was playing for the first time after missing three games with a hip injury. Combined with the Patriots’ bye week, he had more than a month to get healthy enough to play again. He was in for 45 of 57 defensive snaps, and was out there at the beginning of the Panthers’ game-winning drive, but not the end.
“It’s all right, it’s all right,” said Talib. “It tightened up on me a little bit toward the end of the game, but it’s fine. I tried to go through it as much as I can. If I could have been out there, I would have been out there.”
He informed the large group of reporters surrounding his locker that he was day-to-day, hopeful that he’ll be able to face Peyton Manning and the Broncos Sunday night. Many of the questions for Talib were on the challenges that come with facing Denver. But his game-long tussle with Smith — verbal and physical — was still fresh in everyone’s mind.
Talib said anything that was said between the two would be left on the field.
“It’s never personal,” said Talib. “I’m sure if I see Steve, it’ll be, ‘What’s up, how you doing?’ It’s never personal.
“Him and the other guy from St. Louis, that was personal. [Smith] didn’t say he was going to punch me in the mouth. He just told me to get in the tub. It’s kind of thoughtful.”
Smith got into it with Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins in a game last month, telling reporters afterward that some of the comments Jenkins made crossed the line.