Inside the match up: Talib vs Smith

One of the key match ups that was highlighted in the build up to this game was Aqib Talib vs. Steve Smith. And it was fiesty, to say the least (see the image below), leading me to wonder if one or both would be ejected. And the scuffles early resulted in Talib being benched for a couple of plays.

Well, flared tempers seemed to favor Steve Smith early. After Talib broke up the first attempted pass, Smith burned him for 42 yards, then got a 5 yard catch soon after. After a couple scuffles and a couple of penalties on Talib, Talib got back to his game and shut down Steve Smith for the rest of the half. Steve Smith was mostly quiet in the 3rd quarter, except for one catch for a loss and a massive missed opportunity when the Patriots could not cover him in a zone coverage, but was completely missed by Cam Newton. That was,until Newton hit him for a big 16 yard gain after Newton scrambled out of the pocket to keep the drive alive.

For the first 3 quarters, Aqib Talib had Steve Smith under wraps for the most part. Through 3 quarters, Newton only targeted Smith 5 times for 4 catches and 62 yards, but Steve Smith had 3 big catches that lead to 2 Panthers touchdowns.

Talib ended the game on the bench, but he was successful. By and large, Talib won that match up, except for 2 big catches (42 yards and 16 yards) and a couple of penalties early on in the game. Steve Smith only had 4 catches in 6 targets for 62 yards and no TD's. It was all in vain, though, as the Patriots lost on a late Panthers drive and a controversial call at the end of the game.

But the bigger issue for Pats fans is why Talib ended on the bench. I'm sure most Patriots fans are hoping it's not a serious injury.

Inside the scuffle:
Owly Images
Above photo courtesy of the AP.

Stats: ESPN

Twitter: @ConorJF1016, @PatriotsLife