Sammy Watkins returned to the lineup Thursday night, but it was his toughest game as a Raven.
The veteran wide receiver was held to one catch for seven yards, and even the pass that Watkins caught became a backbreaking play that backfired against Baltimore.
With the Ravens already trailing 9-3 in the fourth quarter, Watkins had the ball stripped after making the catch and his fumble was recovered and returned 49 yards for a touchdown by Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard.
Watkins' turnover was a huge turning point in a frustrating night for the Ravens in Florida, and there was no magical comeback by Baltimore in this game. The 22-10 loss was Baltimore's worst offensive showing of the season, and it wasn't what the Ravens expected in Watkins' return to the lineup after a three-game absence.
He had been playing well prior to his thigh injury, and the Dolphins' defense had been struggling, ranked 30th in the NFL entering the game. Thursday was the first time that Baltimore had its top three wide receivers in the lineup together – Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, Watkins and rookie Rashod Bateman, who missed the first five games following groin surgery. Having his full complement of wideouts, along with tight end Mark Andrews, gave quarterback Lamar Jackson plenty of weapons to work with, yet the Ravens were shut down by the Dolphins' blitz-happy defense.
The Dolphins sent extra pass rushers on many plays, making Jackson get rid of the football quickly and daring his targets to get open quickly. Baltimore's offense looked rushed and out of sync, and the timing between Jackson and Watkins may have suffered from him being out of the lineup since Oct. 11.
Watkins missed an important opportunity early in the first quarter when he appeared to lose track of the football in flight while running a post pattern into the end zone. On 3rd-and-9 from Miami's 28-yard line, Jackson was pressured in the pocket but lofted a high pass throwing off his back foot that gave Watkins a chance to make a play in the end zone.
Watkins had gotten a step on cornerback Justin Coleman, but instead of accelerating to catch the football, Watkins slowed down as the ball was coming toward him and the pass dropped incomplete near the back of the end zone.
"I had to throw the ball in the air to try to give him a chance," Jackson said. "Him not seeing the ball -- it'd probably be hard trying to track the ball if I'm just throwing it up trying to make something happen. I didn't talk to him about it."