Raiders CB Sean Smith ready to rebound after 'getting killed' vs. Saints

ALAMEDA, Calif. --Oakland Raiders cornerback Sean Smith, who signed a $40 million free-agent contract with Oakland this offseason, owned up to his poor play which led to his second-half benching in Sunday's season-opening 35-34 win at the New Orleans Saints.

The benching came after he was burned by Brandin Cooks for a 98-yard touchdown, the longest pass play in Saints franchise history.

"I was getting killed," Smith told reporters Tuesday at the Raiders' facility. "I'm not going to lie to you. It was getting bad out there. I was costing our team points so Coach did what he had to do.

"I would have loved to stay in, fight that thing out, but Coach made the decision which was best for the team, so I'm going to ride with it."

Raiders coach Jack Del Rio acknowledged giving Smith a talk on the sidelines.

"I said, 'Hey, you've got to own up to that,'" Del Rio said. "'That certainly wasn't anywhere near where it needed to be and I know you'll bounce back. Be ready to face the music because they're going to be coming at you.'

"He's a big boy. He'll bounce back. He's going to be a good player for us ... [his play] was not what we need and he knows that."

Per Pro Football Focus, Smith gave up four receptions on six targets for 183 yards (the most surrendered by a cornerback on Kickoff Weekend) and his yards per cover snap of 6.78 was the second worst of any cornerback in Week 1. The QB rating for passes thrown into Smith's coverage was 149.3, also the second worst by any corner in the league last week.

It all added up to an overall grade of 40.3, which ranked 87th among cornerbacks.

Three big receptions allowed essentially doomed Smith, who gave up a combined 172 yards on those catches in the Superdome after starting strong with a pass breakup underneath and a tackle. But the Saints found him lacking on deeper balls to smaller receivers.

Such as the 49-yarder to Willie Snead. The 25-yarder to Michael Thomas. And then, the 98-yarder to Cooks, which came with 7:52 remaining in the third quarter when Smith failed to bump or jam Cooks at the line of scrimmage.

Smith, at 6-feet-3, 220 pounds, is the biggest cornerback in the league, but the Saints used their much smaller wideouts to get by him.

"Just made some bad decisions," Smith said. "Poor technique, cost our team."

Up next, the Atlanta Falcons and the speedy but bigger Julio Jones, who is also 6-3, 220 pounds. Might the Raiders have to alter their coverage scheme by giving Smith help with a safety, and could the Falcons send Jones his way after he caught four passes for 66 yards and a TD in Atlanta's 31-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

"Julio's going to get the ball regardless of who [the opposing cornerback] is," Smith said. "So you always have to be worried about that going in and facing that team."

Del Rio did say that Smith would start this weekend in the Raiders' home opener, and Smith acknowledged that he must have a short memory before lining up against Atlanta.

Being an eighth-year veteran should help him move on quickly, he said.

"It's one game," he said of the debacle in New Orleans, which reminded many Raiders fans of DeAngelo Hall's brutal debut for the Raiders in 2008. Hall was cut following eight games that year after he signed a seven-year, $72 million contract with Oakland.

"It's not going to define myself or my career or this season," Smith said. "It was a bad day. ... It's just like any job. I had a bad day at work and I'll come back the next day and get ready to roll for Week 2.

"You play long enough, you're going to have days like that."

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr defended Smith after the game.

"I told Sean, I said, 'Hey, man, you are one of the best cornerbacks I've ever played in my life,'" Carr said. "Anyone wants to challenge that, we can go back and watch the film and see that he is a shutdown-type corner. He really is. He's so smart, and some days it's going to be like that. I've been there. Against Kansas City last year I threw three picks in the second half."

None, though, were by Smith, who was then with the Chiefs.

"We've all been there," Carr said. "It's going to hurt, it's going to sting, it's going to be hard to sleep ... but I know him. He's going to come back and be the same dominant guy that he is, and he will be for us.

"I'm not worried about him, and I don't think that our fans should be either."

And, as Smith said, at least the Raiders rallied to win after trailing by 14 points following Cooks' long TD over him.

"That," Smith said of a loss, "would have been a rough plane ride home."
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