Dennis Pitta had gone 1,092 days between touchdowns.
It had been so long that even quarterback Joe Flacco was asked earlier this week if his good friend had done some behind-the-scenes lobbying to get red-zone targets. Whether it was the result of badgering his buddy, or simply a culmination of several years of hard work, Pitta found the end zone twice in Sunday's 38-6 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
"I got the monkey off my back this week, which was nice," Pitta said. "It felt good. It's just nice to be able to get in the end zone, contribute and help our team."
Not only were the touchdowns the first of the season for Pitta, but they were his first since returning from a second major hip injury that many thought would end his football career. The last time Pitta scored was on Dec. 8, 2013, which was actually his first game back from the first time he fractured and dislocated his hip.
"I feel great for Dennis," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He won't take as much heat from all of us now. We've been on him pretty hard, pretty much all year. For him to break out like that, it was good to see. He played really well."
Touchdowns have been tough to come by this season for Pitta, but he's still been a productive player. He has 61 catches for 529 yards on the year, and he remains a sure-handed target in clutch situations.
"I feel like I have been producing all year," Pitta said. "I don't think after a game like this I say, 'Oh, I'm back.' I feel like I have been back since Week 1."
Coming into Sunday's game, Pitta had been reminded constantly by reporters and teammates about his lack of touchdowns this year. He was able to joke about it after the win, and admitted that he's been in Flacco's ear about giving him chances near the end zone.
"That's always our conversation, so I'm glad it worked out today," he said with a laugh.
The rapport between the two was clearly evident during the post-game press conferences. When asked about the excitement of Pitta's touchdowns given all that he had to overcome to play football again, Flacco joked that "I don't care what he's been through. I just want him on the field."
Pitta, who was standing off to the side about 15 feet from Flacco, sarcastically chimed in, "Appreciate that."
Miami had no answer for Pitta Sunday. Flacco consistently went his way over the middle of the field, and he finished with nine catches for 90 yards. Pitta's first touchdown was a play designed to go his direction, and his second was a progression by Flacco to find him near the goal line.
Pitta took some abuse to earn both of his scores.
The first touchdown came on Baltimore's second possession where Pitta absorbed big hits from two defenders right as he caught the football. He grimaced as jogged over to the sidelines, but was smiling a few moments later after getting swarmed by teammates.
"I got the wind knocked out of me pretty good, so the emotion was to catch your breath," Pitta said. "Right when you get the wind knocked out of you, it hurts more than any other injury. You have to get your wind back, but I was fine."
On his second touchdown, Pitta caught the ball at about the 5-yard line and then fought through a pair of defenders to push his way into the end zone. That touchdown put the Ravens up 21-0 and capped off an 18-play drive that was Baltimore's longest of the season.
As good of a day as it was for Pitta, his teammates made sure not to let him forget his fourth-quarter miscue. Pitta fumbled early in the fourth quarter, and the Dolphins returned it to Baltimore's 8-yard line. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill then hit wide receiver DeVante Parker for a touchdown on the next play to spoil the shutout attempt.
"I've been apologizing to those guys because I gave up those six points," Pitta said.