As reporters swarmed Nick Boyle’s locker Sunday night, there was at least comfort in recent history. Because if there was anything the Ravens tight end had learned from his past few days, it was how it felt to be the center of attention.
The soft-spoken Boyle was surprised to find himself there Wednesday. In the lead-up to the Ravens’ prime-time showdown against the New England Patriots, the AFC rivals mostly exchanged pleasantries. Lamar Jackson called Tom Brady the greatest quarterback ever. Brady hailed Jackson’s unique skill set. The mutual respect stretched from Baltimore to Boston.
Only one comment seemed to ruffle some feathers. It came Wednesday from Boyle, who said of the Patriots’ historically good defense: “We’ll see how good they are once we play them. I don’t think they’ve seen anyone like our offense or like Lamar. ... They’re a good team, and we’re really going to need to bring our 'A' game to make sure we’re on everything.”
It was low-quality bulletin-board material. Some New England players even acknowledged that, yes, the Patriots hadn’t seen an offense like the Ravens’ or a quarterback like Jackson. But the quote stuck. By the end of the Ravens’ 37-20 win Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium, Boyle was still explaining himself. “People took that as I was, like, taking a jab at them, but that’s not what I was saying,” he said.
It seemed Boyle would rather talk about anything but the second scene he’d caused. Boyle, after all, had scored a touchdown. That was cause for celebration — an everyone-on-the-offense, dogpile-style celebration.
Entering Sunday night, Boyle, a fifth-year veteran renowned for his blocking ability, had caught 87 career passes in 55 games — and none for a touchdown, the biggest drought by a wide receiver or tight end since 1960, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Every so often, he entertained questions from reporters about when he’d finally find the end zone. He never sounded that worried.
His breakthrough required no great feats of athleticism. On second-and-goal from New England’s 5-yard line, with the Ravens leading 24-20 at the start of the fourth quarter, Boyle lined up beside right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. As fellow tight end Hayden Hurst went in motion from left to right and slot receiver Seth Roberts followed suit after the snap, Boyle went the other way.
Jackson faked a handoff to running back Gus Edwards, then looked to his right, then over the middle, then to his left. Boyle was running free toward the flat. Jackson’s throw was on the money. Boyle caught the pass in stride at the 3, turned for the goal line — and started to stumble. Falling forward, he secured the ball, angled his body toward the promised land and rumbled in.
Teammates mobbed him as if he’d just hit a buzzer-beating game-winner. Tight end Mark Andrews said he’d never seen a team so happy over one player’s first touchdown.
“There were a lot of guys grabbing the game ball to make sure he got the game ball, the touchdown ball, so he could have it as a souvenir,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Nick is one of our very best players. He does a lot of everything really well, and he deserves it.”
“It was dope,” said Jackson, who was 5-for-5 for 27 yards when targeting Boyle. “I couldn’t really get to him. I really wanted to run over there. ... It was like a whirlwind for him getting his first touchdown. The whole team was excited. I was pumped. I just had to wait until he got to the sideline.”
Afterward, Boyle said he didn’t have the ball. He didn’t mind. Maybe it’d gotten lost in the celebrations? If so, who cared? Nothing could ruin the “good feeling,” he said, of that touchdown. Of that win.
“I think it was cool how my teammates came and were celebrating with me,” he said. “I think they wanted me to score.”
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It was almost like the Ravens had never seen anything like that on their offense.