As the Ravens secondary gathered itself after a second crushing defeat in which most of the blame was placed on their shoulders, cornerback Jimmy Smith sat with his forehead resting on his hands, his lack of success marking the Bengals' top receiver weighing heavily on him.
On Smith's watch Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium, wide receiver A.J. Green was key to the Cincinnati Bengals passing game that helped drop the Ravens to 0-3. Andy Dalton threw for 383 yards and led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, the second of which won the game.
The loss left Smith, signed this spring to a four-year contract extension worth more than $40 million to be the cornerstone of the Ravens secondary, stunned. He spent much of the game shadowing Green, who finished with 227 yards and two touchdowns on 10 catches.
Teammates' supportive words barely seemed to register with Smith. Cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Kyle Arrington, plus young defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, all tried to offer solace during Smith's 20-minute, 1,000-yard stare into the floor before his locker, but found out what Smith later told the media.
"I'm too emotional to speak right now," Smith said. "I'll speak with you later this week."
Smith's struggles Sunday were just a small part of a secondary that, despite having him healthy and upgrading with Arrington and safety Kendrick Lewis in the offseason, has struggled badly over the past two weeks.
All around him, there was accountability.
Cornerback Rashaan Melvin, who was benched barely a quarter into his 2015 debut as the third cornerback after three penalties and a touchdown allowed, said "it was just a bad game for me."
Webb admitted the loss was "very tough." Arrington, who Melvin jumped on the depth chart this week, said the loss was difficult for a "very prideful group."
"It's another tough pill to swallow," Arrington said.
Smith, alone on a stool in his locker, was dealing with what Arrington called one of the realities of their position.
"There's a lot of talented guys on the other side of the ball — receivers, quarterbacks," Arrington said. "To make a tough throw, tough catch, you live with that. You have to live with that."
At the outset of the game, it seemed Smith would succeed in limiting Green, as he had a year earlier. At his best in 2014, he held receivers such as Green and Pittsburgh Steelers star Antonio Brown to essentially nothing, and the Pro Bowl wide receiver didn't have a catch on two targets in the first quarter.
When Cincinnati took over trying to build on a 14-0 lead with 7:35 remaining in the second quarter, Dalton decided to involve his top receiver.
Green caught five passes on the drive for 73 yards, finding space behind Smith and in front of safety Will Hill.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, Green beat Smith for a 47-yard completion using the same double-move Oakland Raiders rookie receiver Amari Cooper used against Smith last Sunday. Smith's second interception of the season in the back corner of the end zone on a fade intended for Green would be the high-water mark of his day.
After the Ravens took their first lead of the game on linebacker C.J. Mosley's fumble recovery and return for a touchdown, Green slipped through the Ravens' zone coverage for a back-breaking 80-yard reception that was reminiscent of his 77-yard game-winner at M&T Bank Stadium a season ago.
Green, so frequently Smith's responsibility in early portions of the game, ran between Smith and Lewis in zone coverage. Lewis called it a "miscommunication — things we've got to get straightened out."
Dalton said he recognized the Ravens would be bringing pressure and dropping their defensive backs into a zone, and took advantage.
"They were just getting him the ball," Lewis said. "We've got to do better as a secondary to contain their best player and come up with stops when we need them. We did a poor job. We did a poor job closing out this ballgame to give our team a win."
"It seems to be a regular occurrence with him," coach John Harbaugh said of Green's big day. "One of these days, we'll figure out how to cover A.J. Green."
The task was Smith's on Sunday, and to try and unwrap what happened, he turned to one of the team's unquestioned leaders — wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.
After his brief address to the media, Smith found a stool next to the veteran wide receiver's locker, his head still slunk low underneath the hood of his cape of a sweatshirt. The two spoke softly long after the rest of the team and much of the media cleared out of the locker room.
Whatever the message, Smith's role as the team's top cornerback likely will go unchanged. On Thursday waits Pittsburgh Steelers star Antonio Brown, who is more than capable of replicating Green's big day.
"[Jimmy] is a heck of a player, and in this business, as we all know as far as cornerbacks specifically, you've got to have a short memory," Arrington said.