If case you missed it, Bucs’ rookie Ryan Smith’s play on punt coverage in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 16-11 win was No. 1 on Sports Center’s NFL Top 10 over the weekend.
Smith’s coach would seem to agree with the list.
“I think the thing that adds a degree to difficulty to [Smith’s play at the 3-yard line] that most people forget about – you’ve all seen the tight rope of a wide receiver where you have to toe the line and watch the ball – but he also had [cornerback] Josh Robinson jumping in front of him, trying to get the ball,” Dirk Koetter said Monday.
“For him to maintain his concentration, keep his feet behind the line and then lean his body like that and flip it behind his back – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better play than that. That was a beautiful play.”
Smith, a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina Central, began the season as the Bucs fourth safety and took over as the starting kick returner in Week 4. He fielded 10 kickoffs for 169 yards (16.9 average) over 10 games before being replaced last week by recent signee Josh Huff, who was promoted from the practice squad.
Huff, however, mishandled an awkward bounce on a kickoff, leading to a safety, while Smith played the key role in the unit’s finest moment.
With a “Smooth-Criminal”-like move to save Bryan Anger’s punt from going inside the end zone, Smith knocked the ball out for Alan Cross to down at the 1-yard line with just over six minutes left. It’s unfair to suggest the Bucs defense, dominant as it’s been, wouldn’t have stopped New Orleans regardless, but Drew Brees operating at his own goal line, needing 97 yards instead of 80, certainly made things more comfortable for Tampa Bay.
Smith, for his part, didn’t even realize how impressive “the lean” was until he saw the replay. Afterward, he said seeing it on ESPN was a “cool experience” and was especially appreciative of Koetter’s praise.
“Still a shocker,” Smith said of the attention. “Like I said, it was easy for me. It wasn’t hard. I just did it. To get recognition for it and everything, and [coach Koetter] saying that, that’s big.”