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‘There’s a reason we got him No. 1’: Ravens TE Hayden Hurst delivers game-breaking play against Bills

Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst talks about his touchdown during the Buffalo Bills game and the goal of the team.

While marveling at the play of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who in Sunday’s 24-17 win over the Buffalo Bills continued what has been a Most Valuable Player-worthy season, it’s easy to forget he was the team’s second first-round selection in the 2018 draft.

The Ravens selected tight end Hayden Hurst seven picks before Jackson, pairing their young quarterback with a player they projected to be a reliable pass-catching option. But between a stress fracture that limited him in his rookie season and tight end Mark Andrews developing a noticeable on-field rapport with Jackson, Hurst got lost in the shuffle.

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With Andrews leaving Sunday’s game because of a knee injury, Hurst stepped up to give the Ravens offense a much-needed boost in the third quarter.

On the fourth play from scrimmage in the second half, Jackson faked a pistol handoff to running back Mark Ingram II and delivered a pass to Hurst, who outraced the Buffalo secondary for a 61-yard touchdown.

“They were playing a lot of [Cover Zero] against us and I got through the second level,” Hurst said after the game. “Lamar saw me and just kind of popped it over top and I just punched it."

Hurst finished with three catches for a team-high 73 yards, with his score giving the team a cushion after a slow start in the first half. The Ravens offense amassed just 95 yards in the first half, while Jackson completed five of 10 passes for 30 yards, one touchdown and his first interception since Week 5.

“Hayden is a monster,” Ingram said. “Super fast, great hands, just an all-around tight end. Kind of underrated a little bit, I’d say, just because Mark Andrews is so special and an elite tight end in this league. But Hayden made a huge play for us to be able to make that catch.”

Hurst has been candid about the slow start to his career. He impressed as a rookie in training camp until a stress fracture in his foot sidelined him for the team’s first four games.

Hurst returned to the field, but the injury lingered and he didn’t show the promise he flashed in the summer. He finished his rookie campaign with 13 receptions on 23 targets for 163 touchdowns and one touchdown.

Entering Sunday’s game, Hurst ranked fifth on the team in receptions and yards, taking more of a role as a blocker in the league’s No. 1 running offense.

“There’s a reason we got him No. 1 last year,” Jackson said. “He has proven that he’s feeling loose and getting back to his old self like he was in college. He let it loose and he’s just playing ball.”

When asked about the importance of being the one to make the big play after the setbacks in his young career, Hurst took a deep breath and looked down. After rubbing his hands together, he looked back up to reflect.

“It’s hard to put into words, to be honest,” Hurst said. “It’s been not exactly what I had in mind for my start. But I just focused every single day, and I tribute that to [Ravens tight end coach] Bobby [Engram], [assistant tight ends coach] Bobby [Bischoff] and coach Harbs [John Harbaugh]. Those guys believe in me. They know why I was brought here and they stayed patient.

“Stuff I did in practice doesn’t always carry over to games. But it’s nice to see that stuff carry over. I think the guys have faith in me to make plays like that. Like I said, I just stay patient.”

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