Malik Harrison got hit in the face Sunday and was thrilled about it.
With the Ravens clinging to a three-point lead late in the fourth quarter, they needed a big play to seal the victory. Harrison delivered, blocking Cade York's 60-yard field goal attempt when it ricocheted off Harrison's face mask, allowing the Ravens to hold on to a 23-20 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
It was the first kick that Harrison had ever blocked at any level of football, and his timing was great. As Harrison jumped and raised his arms to get a piece of the football, York's kick was low and struck Harrison directly in the facemask.
Harrison didn't care where the ball hit him – he just wanted to get a piece of it. York had already booted two field goals, but both were low kicks and Harrison figured the Ravens could block one.
"The last time I was like, 'Alright, this is going to be a low one,'" Harrison said. "Let me jump as high as I can and the ball hit me in the face."
Players and coaches on Baltimore's sideline went wild after Harrison's block, knowing how desperately they needed to win a close game. In all three losses this season, the Ravens (4-3) led by at least 10 points in the fourth quarter, and Sunday's game was another cliffhanger.
After the Ravens went ahead, 23-13, early in the fourth quarter, the Browns went on a 75-yard scoring drive to close to within three points. On Baltimore's next possession, Justice Hill fumbled with 3:20 to play, setting up Cleveland's potential game-tying drive and the final field-goal attempt by York. Lamar Jackson said Harrison's block was exactly what the Ravens needed.
"A huge relief," Jackson said. "I feel like [we] heard the whole team justlet that out. Shoutout to Malik and the whole special teams, because they did a terrific job.
"I'd rather it not be close, so we're not around here biting our nails at the end of the game. But I feel like it just builds momentum, especially [because] we've got this quick turnaround Thursday night (against Tampa Bay) playing against a tough team. We've just got to keep stacking."
The Ravens pride themselves on special teams play, and Harrison made a strong inside push to put himself in excellent position to make the block. He has blossomed during his third season as a versatile linebacker who's also making an impact on special teams.
"It felt good, just to make the game-winning play basically," Harrison said. "I'm a Columbus (Ohio) boy. I feel good about that."
There were several encouraging signs for the Ravens against the Browns, like Gus Edwards leading the rushing attack and five sacks by the defense. But in the end, the Ravens needed Harrison's block to make sure this game ended in celebration.
"I saw a long kick, so you're going to get a lower trajectory," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "[Special Teams Coordinator] Chris Horton did a great job of calling a middle push rush. We've got great middle push guys. Then, guys got their hands up and Malik found the ball. Sometimes, you don't find it, so I can't wait to see it on tape, but the fact that it was a longer kick and a lower trajectory certainly helped us on that, and it was a great call by Chris.
"It was just really a team win. That's about the best way I can sum it up."