Ravens TE Nick Boyle in pursuit of NFL's most elusive TD catch

The Ravens' Nick Boyle (86) is one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL but in his fifth season he's still looking for his first touchdown. Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Nick Boyle loves to go around the Baltimore Ravens' locker room and push his teammates' buttons.

The fifth-year tight end will start playfully jabbing someone in the shoulder and chest, joking that they're soft. Soon after comes the invariable comeback that leaves Boyle speechless ...

"At least I've scored a touchdown."

The Ravens have the NFL's top-ranked offense and the only offense that is averaging more than 30 points per game. Baltimore also has Boyle, the game's best blocking tight end who holds another distinction in the league. He has the longest known streak without a touchdown catch among wide receivers and tight ends.

Boyle has 86 career catches without a touchdown, which represents the biggest drought by a wide receiver or tight end since 1960, according to ESPN Stats & Information. No one else is even close. Bob Adams, a tight end who played from 1969 to 1976, is second with 61 receptions without a score.

This dubious stretch doesn't weigh on Boyle's mind. He thinks about it only when someone brings it up or if he hears a pass play called when the Ravens are in the red zone.

"I think I’m a good football player," Boyle said. "I think I do well with what I do on the field. I don’t think I have to score to be a good football player. I think of what I do on the field, and what I can contribute is how I get my satisfaction."

Since Boyle entered the league as a fifth-round pick out of Delaware in 2015, 44 players on the Ravens have scored touchdowns, including seven tight ends and six defensive players.

Boyle's dry spell defies the odds as well as football logic. He has yet to reach the end zone in five seasons, 54 games and 1,946 snaps. But 336-pound defensive tackle Brandon Williams and running back Bobby Rainey, who played four games for Baltimore, have each scored a touchdown for Baltimore.

"For me to have a couple [touchdowns] and I only get the ball a couple of times a year, I have to give him crap for it," fullback and defensive lineman Patrick Ricard said before adding, "He gets a little sensitive."

The cruelest moment of Boyle's streak occurred in the 2018 season opener against the Buffalo Bills, when he caught a Joe Flacco pass in the right flat and went untouched into the end zone. Boyle, though, didn't have a chance to spike the ball. As soon as Boyle crossed the goal line, he saw a penalty flag fall in front of him.

Wide receiver Willie Snead IV was called for offensive pass interference for running over a defender in an attempt to set a pick for Boyle.

"On the field, I thought I did a great job," Snead said. "On the film, I have to be more of an actor than tractor, as [offensive coordinator Greg Roman] said."

To make matters worse, Snead scored a touchdown on the next play. Teammates joked that Snead committed the penalty because he knew the upcoming play would go to him. Boyle has yet to find humor in it.

Even this year, when that play is called -- the one that should've resulted in Boyle's first touchdown -- he has something to say to Snead in the huddle.

Boyle says, "Hey, don't you ..."

Snead cuts him off with, "I know, I know. I got you."

The frustrating part for Boyle is that he has had opportunities. His nine red zone catches are the most without a touchdown since 2001.

In Week 3 this year, Boyle was wide open running down the seam inside the Kansas City Chiefs' 10-yard line. He had found a gap between a safety and cornerback. But Lamar Jackson's throw sailed so far over Boyle's head that the tight end couldn't even get a hand on it while leaping high in the air.

How many times has Boyle been this close?

"I forget about them because I don’t want to think about them, and I just move onto the next week," Boyle said.

The elusive touchdown catch has never diminished Boyle's stature to the Ravens or the rest of the league.

When Boyle was set to become a free agent this offseason, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported "no less than 10 teams interested in the player one GM described as 'the best blocking tight end in the league.'" Baltimore kept Boyle by re-signing him to a three-year, $18 million deal, making him one of the 20 highest paid tight ends in the NFL.

While Boyle and his family rejoiced over the life-changing deal, he saw the backlash on social media.

Nick Boyle, who?

Oh, paying this guy a lot, and he didn’t get a touchdown.

His teammates laughed at it -- not that they thought it was funny. They thought it was absurd.

"We all know how valuable he is," Ravens tight end Mark Andrews said. "He’s basically what makes this offense tick."

Boyle sets the edge with his blocking and sets the tempo for the NFL's No. 1 rushing attack with his physical play. Asked last season why Baltimore was so dominant running the ball, coach John Harbaugh said, "Watch Nick Boyle. That’s a big part of it."

"Nick is a very unique tight end in this day and age, and he does a great job," Roman said. "He really enhances what we do at the line of scrimmage. I think everybody, really, in the league that goes against him probably has a really good respect and appreciation for what he does. It's done at a high level."

Even though it has been a while, Boyle has scored a touchdown before. He totaled 12 touchdown catches in his four seasons at the University of Delaware.

His most recent touchdown came on Nov. 22, 2014, when he scored on his 100th career college reception. Boyle remembers everything about the play. He started in pass protection and leaked out for a screen over the middle for a 10-yard touchdown against Villanova.

When he scores that long-awaited touchdown in the NFL, does he have a celebration in mind?

"I may. I don't know," Boyle said. "You have to make sure the first one you don’t get in trouble for it. I’ve never been there, so I don’t know how to act."