It never mattered too much to Nick Boyle when he would score his first NFL touchdown, but answering questions about it had started to get old.
The fifth-year tight end finally found the end zone for the first time Sunday night during the Baltimore Ravens' 37-20 win over the previously undefeated New England Patriots inside M&T Bank Stadium.
Boyle's elusive first touchdown came at a critical point – the opening play of the fourth quarter and the Ravens leading 24-20.
The former Blue Hen lined up on the right side of the offensive line outside of right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. After the snap, Boyle crossed the field to catch a pass from quarterback Lamar Jackson in the left flat. He lunged into the left corner end zone for a 5-yard touchdown – the first of his 56-game career.
The touchdown drought to begin his career was the longest in the NFL since 1960, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“I wasn't even worried about it,” he said. “The best part is not that I scored, it's that I don't have to answer the question anymore. 'When are you going to score?' It was cool. It was cool that we won the game. We beat a really good team. It was a whole effort on our side. That was the awesome thing. If I scored and we lost, it wouldn't be good.”
While Boyle acted like the touchdown drought wasn't overly important to him, his teammates showed how much it meant to them to see him in the end zone. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley reached him first for an embrace. Wide receiver Willie Snead IV was next. Soon, the entire offense had Boyle pinned up against the stands.
The one who threw the pass to Boyle was unable to even congratulate him.
“It was dope. I couldn’t really get to him,” Jackson said. “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.”
Tight end Mark Andrews, who has six touchdown catches in less than two years in the league, said he was “ecstatic” to see Boyle finally get his first.
“I haven't seen a whole team and a whole offense so happy for one guy score a touchdown. He works so hard and does so much for us. He's irreplaceable,” Andrews said. “I haven't had that much fun for someone else scoring in a long time. That was awesome.”
Boyle said the reactions of his teammates meant more than the touchdown itself did for him.
“I think I got more satisfaction out of all them celebrating with me than actually scoring,” he said. “There's still people congratulating me. It was cool. I'm not the one to really be the center of attention, everyone coming up to me, but it was cool to see that they were happy.”
Boyle has 92 catches for 785 yards since the Ravens drafted him in the fifth round of the 2015 draft out of the University of Delaware. His statistics don't compare to Andrews or the other top pass-catching tight ends in the NFL, but the Ravens made clear how much they value him over the offseason when he re-signed to the team on a three-year contract worth $18 million. Boyle had never himself found the end zone, but he had led his teammates there time after time.
Head coach John Harbaugh called Boyle the best blocking tight end in the NFL when the new deal was announced. He said Sunday after the game that Boyle remains one of the most critical pieces to Baltimore's offensive success.
“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,” Harbaugh said. “Nick is one of our very best players. He does a lot of everything really well, and he deserves it.”
Boyle was unsure where the ball was as he spoke to reporters in the locker room. He didn't seem too concerned about it.
Boyle is the rare professional athlete who seems genuinely content doing the unheralded tasks well. A key block is just as satisfying to him as making a catch.
“I want to be really consistent, whether it's run blocking, pass blocking or catching the ball. I think a big part of my game is trying to be physical,” he said.