Dennis Pitta delivers ultimate comeback

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
2:00
PM ET
BALTIMORE -- In a game that featured the most incredible final two minutes of any NFL game, the ultimate comeback was delivered by Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta.

It was less than five months ago when Pitta dislocated his hip on the first contact practice of training camp. Ravens coach John Harbaugh originally declared Pitta out for the season, and Pitta actually feared the worst.

[+] EnlargeDennis Pitta
AP Photo/Nick WassThe return of tight end Dennis Pitta, right, from a hip injury is good news for Joe Flacco and the Ravens.
This is why Sunday's 29-26 win against the Minnesota Vikings was the perfect time for Pitta's first game back. It was an unbelievable game for an unbelievable return.

"I remember when I got injured, I didn’t know if I was even going to play football again," said Pitta, who was activated from the injured reserve-designated for return list. "So being able to stand here and talk about a victory and being a part of that is special for me. And just being a part of this team and being able to fight the way we did today is pretty remarkable.”

Pitta didn't simply play "a part" in the Ravens' third straight victory. He led the charge, finishing with six catches for 48 yards.

With the Ravens trailing by five points (12-7) with about four minutes remaining, Pitta converted a third-down in the red zone with a six-yard catch, and put Baltimore back ahead four plays later with a one-yard touchdown reception on fourth-and-goal.

Going back to the sideline, Pitta was met with a big hug from coach John Harbaugh.

"I think we all appreciate Dennis Pitta being back and what he means to our team," Harbaugh said. "When you see the work a guy puts in in rehab in this league to get back from an injury like that, then you appreciate a moment like that.”

Pitta had a slow start, which is understandable for a player who hadn't suited up since the Super Bowl. He dropped one pass -- which is virtually unheard of for a tight end who had three drops in his previous two seasons -- and had a slightly off-target throw go off his fingertips.

It took four passes to Pitta for quarterback Joe Flacco to finally connect with his one-time security blanket. The "Pitta is finally back" moment came midway through the third quarter, when Pitta made a diving six-yard catch in which he stretched out horizontally to make the grab.

In just one game, Pitta showed the Ravens what they've been missing with him being on the sidelines for the first 13 weeks of the season. He moved the chains with two third-down catches and delivered a touchdown in the red zone.

"I felt good throughout the game and didn’t think about my hip, which is encouraging going forward," Pitta said. "[I] was able to just go out and play.”

This was reminiscent of the past. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Flacco has completed 75 percent of his attempts to Pitta in the red zone the past two seasons, but only 44.6 percent to all other Ravens (including playoffs).

"There is some kind of a chemistry there between those two guys that is probably hard to explain," Harbaugh said of Flacco and Pitta.

Flacco and Pitta are good friends, and it comes through on the field and in the locker room. Asked about Pitta's game, Flacco couldn't help to take a playful jab, saying, "He looked a little goofy on a couple catches."

It looked like the same old Pitta in the final minute of the game. On the winning drive, he drew an 18-yard pass interference penalty and caught an 18-yard pass, which set up the touchdown pass to Marlon Brown.

"Obviously, he’s going to get better and better as the weeks go on," Flacco said. "He’s a huge player for us. He knows how to get open, he knows how to run routes, and he catches the football. He means a lot.”

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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