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AFC Championship, Patriots - Ravens: Nate Solder, Jimmy Smith Both Make Plays

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I had hoped to put together a story profiling former Buffaloes (and first round NFL draft picks) Jimmy Smith and Nate Solder's rookie seasons prior to today's game but once again my hectic work schedule prevented me from doing so. Both players have recently stepped up their play over the last few weeks of the season and one of them will be heading to the Super Bowl with a major role to play for their respective AFC team. In the 23-20 Patriots win Solder and Smith both had highlight worthy plays and SB Nation Denver captured them for us.

First up was Nate Solder's dominating block on Ray "guns-blazing" Lewis:

Solderrayray_medium_medium

Solder pushed Lewis back on that play as Green-Ellis hit the wide open hole to the right side. He found the touchdown and temporarily put the Patriots in a 10-3 lead. Dennis Pitta caught a touchdown for the Ravens a little bit later and Stephen Gostkowski put the Patriots back in the lead with three minutes to go in the half.

Not to be outdone, Jimmy Smith later made this insane interception of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady:

Here's a gif version as well.

Then with the New England Patriots possessing the ball, Brady drops back and throws the ball deep down the field. Fall short? Hit someone in the back? Nope. Bernard Pollard tips the ball and moves it into an area where Smith is able to get his hands on the ball. But that's not all. Smith is able to fully control the ball as he comes down to the ground. With no Patriots around him to, Smith is directed by his teammates to get up and run the ball. He winds up getting past his own 35-yard before the play comes to an end.

Both players have set themselves up for high expectations heading into their second seasons and performances like they had today will do nothing but inflate those expectations even higher.