Manchester-born Menelik Watson experienced an unhappy homecoming as his Oakland Raiders were routed 38-14 by the Miami Dolphins in one of the most one-sided NFL games at Wembley.
Offensive lineman Watson was back in the country of his birth to play in front of a sold-out crowd which included his mother and daughter, who were both watching the 25-year-old for the first time live.
But after being visibly emotional having been named an honorary captain and leading out the Black and Silver, Watson was let down as his team-mates failed to find the same levels of inspiration and served up a lame duck.
Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was angered by head coach Joe Philbin’s reluctance to assure him of his starting role this week, took out his frustrations by throwing a pair of touchdowns while running-back Lamar Miller also found pay-dirt twice.
The loss meant Oakland dropped to 0-4, raising further questions over whether head coach Dennis Allen will even have a job to return to on the other side of the Atlantic.
The Raiders had statistically the NFL’s worst offence through three weeks, but they came out all guns blazing as James Jones juggled a 30-yard catch to himself from the first offensive play.
Watson is not a starter on Oakland’s offensive line, yet featured prominently when they got in the red zone, holding off fearsome pass rusher Cameron Wake long enough for rookie quarterback Derek Carr to find tight end Brian Leonhardt for his first NFL touchdown.
Unfortunately for those of a Raiders persuasion, the evening quickly turned sour as Miami put points on the board in each of their first four offensive series.
Caleb Sturgis’s field goal cut the deficit before a spinning Mike Wallace broke the plane to put the Dolphins ahead. Philbin was then rewarded for going for it on fourth down as Miller breezed into the end zone prior to Dion Sims reeling in a touchdown off play-action as Miami ran up a 24-7 lead.
Home hero Watson was at least seeing an increased workload after being promoted to a starting role once Khalif Barnes went down with a knee problem.
Watson’s name was called for the wrong reasons just before the break, though, as he was penalised for holding Wake during another stuttering Oakland drive.
The Dolphins continued to have their way with a porous defence after the interval and although Miller’s fumble on the goal-line gave the Raiders a temporary reprieve, Carr was soon picked off by Brent Grimes, allowing Miller to punch the ball in for his second score of the day.
At 31-7 the Wembley crowd got restless, a prolonged Mexican Wave instead capturing their imagination, meaning they may have missed Carr’s departure to an ankle and knee injury.
However, back-up quarterback Matt McGloin quickly became the centre of attention as Cortland Finnegan scooped up a botched snap from centre Stefen Wisniewski and took it to the house.
The two teams traded interceptions before Watson provided ample protection to allow McGloin to hook up with Andre Holmes for a 22-yard score.
But Miami’s lead was such that Tannehill was rested in the dying stages and swathes of the Wembley crowd headed into the night, missing another McGloin pick to cap off a dismal outing for the “hosts”.