Houston Texans defensive end Antonio Smith came close to accusing the New England Patriots of cheating after Week 13's narrow 34-31 loss to the AFC East powerhouse.
On Monday, Dec. 2, Smith said his 'spy' comments were in jest, courtesy of John McClain of the Houston Chronicle:
“It tickles me how much the country loves the Patriots so much they take everything so seriously,” Smith said tonight after the Texans’ walk-through. “I wasn’t angry or serious and I didn’t say that’s why they beat us.”
“I said it, but you have to check the manner in which I said it,” he said. “I didn’t accuse them of beating us with cheating. Come on, don’t you have a sense of humor? Though it may be something I was curious about it, I wasn’t thinking they spied on us or they were cheating.
“Half the stuff I say is spontaneous and witty, and I don’t think anything else about it. I’m sorry I said the word spying. I was joking and having fun with it.”
Smith also discussed the reaction from fans and media regarding his post-game comments, courtesy of McClain:
“I was definitely surprised,” he said. “I didn’t think anything else about it after we talked until I woke up this morning and everybody wanted to kill me on Instagram.
“My teammates were telling me about ESPN. I don’t really watch ESPN that much, but they (teammates) pretty much got a good laugh out of it, me being the butt of everybody’s jokes today. I had no idea it would have that (kind of) effect.”
As noted by ESPN's Tania Ganguli on Sunday, Dec. 1, Smith was "very suspicious" of how the Patriots prepared for the contest, stating New England made some very questionable in-game adjustments:
Either teams are spying on us or scouting us...I'm very suspicious. I just think it will be a big coincidence if that just happened by chance. I don't know for sure, but I just know it was something that we practiced this week.
Smith told reporters that there were aspects about the Texans' defensive game plan that weren't yet on film, but somehow the Patriots knew what was coming beforehand.
When pressed about specifics, Smith was evasive in his response, per Ganguli:
I can't tell you an example because it's G15 classified. When you watch film of the team do something a certain way all the time no matter what team they play—it's been 12 games played and they always did it—and then all of a sudden it's changed? It was pretty clever and pretty suspicious.
The defensive end never went as far as to say the Patriots actually cheated, but he came about as close to doing so without actually using those words.
On Monday, Dec. 2, coach Gary Kubiak was quick to extinguish the allegations according to James Palmer of CSNHouston:
"I have the utmost respect for their organization." - Gary Kubiak on Antonio Smith's comments about Patriots "spying". #Texans— James Palmer (@JPalmerCSN) December 3, 2013
Smith did the same thing:
Antonio Smith was awesome as always. Ended by saying " Stephen A. Smith, keep your name out my mouth." Said everyone took him way 2 serious— James Palmer (@JPalmerCSN) December 3, 2013
It's easy to understand how Smith and the Texans would be frustrated after losing another close game this year, but as many others likely feel, Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey called the allegations "ludicrous":
Antonio Smith is just sad that the Texans got outcoached. Being “spied on” in their own facility is ludicrous.— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) December 1, 2013
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald first reported that the NFL would not investigate Smith's claims:
A league spokesman told me there is no investigation into any alleged spying scandal based on Antonio Smith's comments.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) December 2, 2013
Belichick wouldn't comment today because he called it a "league matter," League has no plans to investigate without specific information.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) December 2, 2013
Nevertheless, Smith's comments still stirred up conversations about the infamous "Spygate" scandal Bill Belichick and the Pats were connected with in 2007.
Houston hasn't won a game since Week 2, but it had New England on the ropes at Reliant Stadium, leading by 10 points at the half and three points in the fourth quarter before giving up two late field goals.
It was the sixth straight game in which the Texans lost by seven points or less, and the loss (their 10th consecutive) gave Houston the worst record in the league at 2-10.
Houston will now hit the road to take on Jacksonville. Then it will head to Indianapolis to take on the Colts before heading back home to battle the Denver Broncos. The Texans will finish out the season on the road in Tennessee.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78