Quarterback Joe Flacco sat in the locker room after Sunday's win over the Vikings and waited on his teammate, tight end Dennis Pitta, to finish getting dressed to leave. He chided Pitta about taking too long, but Flacco should be used to it by now.
He's been waiting on Pitta all season.
Pitta showed Sunday he was worth the wait, as the fourth-year tight end came up huge in his season debut against Minnesota.
"I'm glad we put him up this week," Head Coach John Harbaugh said with a big smile after the win.
Pitta finished the day with six catches, including a highlight-reel diving grab, for 48 yards and a touchdown. The 1-yard touchdown reception came in the fourth quarter and briefly gave the Ravens a lead before the exhilarating back-and-forth finish in the final two minutes.
He returned to the field a little more than four months after suffering a fractured and dislocated hip at the start of training camp. At the time, the Ravens thought Pitta's season was over and some doctors even considered the injury to be career-threatening.
"I remember when I got injured, I didn't know if I was even going to play football again, and so being able to stand here and talk about a victory and being a part of that is special for me," Pitta said. "And just being a part of this team and being able to fight the way we did today is pretty remarkable."
Pitta scored his touchdown to take a 15-12 lead with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The 1-yard score looked like it would be the game winner, but the Vikings responded with two more touchdowns to set up a dramatic finish.
After his touchdown, Pitta came over to the sidelines and received an emotional embrace from a number of his teammates. Harbaugh greeted him with a big hug as he reached the sidelines.
"I don't know what I said, and I really don't remember other than just elation for him and just being appreciative for all of us," Harbaugh said. "When you see the work a guy puts in rehab in this league to get back from an injury like that, then you appreciate a moment like that."
His teammates also swarmed Pitta on the field and on the Ravens' bench.
"Seeing him out there back healthy, it does my heart justice. He's going to help us big going into this stretch," fellow tight end Ed Dickson said. "Once he had his surgery and they said he had a chance to play, I knew he would work hard enough to get back. The things that he did behind the scenes go unsaid, but we know how hard he worked. Just to see him reap the benefits and come back and help us finish this season the way we want to."
Having Pitta on the field made a big difference for the offense and specifically the Ravens franchise quarterback. Pitta and Flacco have great chemistry together, and whenever Flacco got into trouble, he seemed to look in Pitta's direction. Pitta finished the game tied with a team-high 11 targets.
"Those two guys probably have something a little more," Harbaugh said. "There is some kind of a chemistry there between those two guys that is probably hard to explain."
On the Ravens' game-winning drive in the final 45 seconds of the fourth quarter, Flacco turned to Pitta to get the ball down the field. He threw Pitta's direction on three of the final six passes, and an 18-yard completion to the tight end ultimately set up Marlon Brown's game-winning touchdown catch.
"He knows how to get open," Flacco added. "He knows how to run routes and he catches the football. He means a lot."
In addition to Pitta making a big impact in his return, the other good news was that he did not suffer any setbacks and responded well to his first full-contact action. The Ravens primarily used him on third downs and passing situations, and the plan is to increase his workload in the coming weeks.
"I felt good throughout the game and didn't think about my hip, which is encouraging going forward, and [I] was able to just go out and play," he said.