Due to his recent growth and a surge of highlight worthy plays, Miami Dolphins TE Charles Clay has been given the nickname “Claymaker” by the NFL media. He has quietly become Ryan Tannehill’s safety blanket, and has doubled as a flexible and invaluable option on an explosive Miami Dolphins offense. His unbelievable athleticism and ability to make plays have led to Miami victories this season, but his biggest and most important play to date came Sunday against the New England Patriots.
Clay had one of his worst statistical games this season, catching just one ball for six yards. If you did not watch the game and saw Clay’s numbers, you would sure be wondering “how he could have had such a bad game?” or “why he was not targeted more?” Both of those would be fair questions if you did not watch the game, and yes I agree that Clay should have been targeted more but that is another issue entirely. They most important part about Clay’s one catch for six yards is the situation in which he recorded his sole catch. Down 17-20 with roughly three minuted remaining in the game, Miami began their final offensive drive on their own 40 yard line, thanks to an errant kick by New England’s Stephen Gostkowski. Tannehill threw an incompletion on first down and was promptly sacked for a loss of six on second down. On 3rd and 16 Tannehill threw an eleven yard strike to Brian Hartline, setting up a 4th and 5 with the game on the line. Thankfully, HC Joe Philbin made the right decision and went for it, knowing that Miami would likely not see the ball again if they punted to Tom Brady, who tore up Miami’s defense throughout the game. After taking a timeout, the Miami offense took the field for what would be the game deciding play.
Then, OC Mike Sherman dialed up what may have been his worst play-call of the day (which is really something if you know Sherman’s play-calling). The play was a designed quick-out screen to Charles Clay on the right side, and Ryan Tannehill made one of his poorer throws (but overall had a fantastic game) and threw the ball low and slightly behind Clay. Clay was forced to do what he has done all year and make a tough catch, dodge two or three oncoming Patriot defenders, and hurdle his way one yard past the first down marker. He picked up the first down almost completely on his own as we have seen him do multiple times this year. A few plays later, Tannehill capped off the unbelievable drive with a TD throw to Marcus Thigpen, and Miami won the game 24-20.
If the Miami Dolphins do manage to make the playoffs this season, I think this 4th down conversion by Charles Clay will be the difference maker. He has proven himself to be not only a consistent and valuable asset to this Dolphins offense, but he has displayed tremendous leadership and play making abilities on the field. If Miami is still playing football come early January, it will in part be thanks to Charles “Big Play” Clay.
UPDATE: Week 16 playoff scenario for the Miami Dolphins: Win + BAL loss + CIN loss