Let’s check in with Houston Texans safety Quintin Demps to see what happened on the game-winning touchdown, shall we? The closest defender to Buffalo Bills tight end Charles Clay was somewhere between Ellicottville and Springville. Clay hauled in the 40-yarder and the Bills knocked off the Houston Texans, 30-21, to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Break it down, Quintin.
“Did you watch it?”
“Good play, man, they made a good play.”
What was your coverage on the play? “They made a good play man. They made a good play.”
Can you elaborate? “They made a good play. All right? They made a good play.”
What about their passing in the middle making it tough for you guys? “They played good today. Played hard.”
Was it a botched assignment? “It was a good play. It was a good play. A good play. good play, a good play, it was a good play.”
No miscommunication? “It was a good play. A good touchdown.”
Game on the line, the Texans’ secondary inexplicably left the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Clay wide, wide, wide open down the middle of the field. Demps and Texans cornerback Kevin Johnson both drifted toward Matthew Mulligan, who looped a vertical route up the right sideline – Mulligan, by the way, has caught one pass for 2 yards this season – thus leaving Clay all alone.
Exit the visitor’s locker room, head into the Bills locker room and there’s Mulligan grinning ear to ear. Muscles bulge out of his dark purple Nike compression shirt. Right here is the team’s resident Schwarzenegger – Mulligan can dead lift 700 pounds, is close to benching 500 pounds and squats 650 pounds.
He is a mule in the ground game. And he embraces that role.
So Mulligan takes a sip from his Aquafina water bottle and can’t help but laugh.
“I always joke, ‘I’m a weapon!’ It’s not true, obviously,” Mulligan said. “Charles is our guy. He’s fantastic. So really, my job is to run hard and – hopefully, maybe – spook the guy and have him cover me. Because if you’re running hard, he has to honor it. Thankfully, he did because Charles is our playmaker and he made a big play.”
Spook, Mulligan did.
On the decisive second and 7 with 2 minutes left, the Texans were initially thrown off by offensive coordinator Greg Roman using big personnel. Buffalo brought in two tight ends, two backs and only one wide receiver. Out of the shotgun, Tyrod Taylor play-faked to running back LeSean McCoy and Mulligan took off at warp speed.
In his head, he knew to sell the heck out of his route. Fool Demps. His job on the play is to “collect the safety.”
“I’m not the fastest guy out there,” Mulligan said, “but, to me, if I’m playing safety I might get spooked a little bit too because you’re thinking ‘What the heck is going on here? This guy’s running crazy fast! Is this going to be the one-in-a-million chance that he’s going to catch the ball?’ Maybe that’s what they’re thinking. And I’m glad that he did because maybe that opens up our guy.”
Mulligan didn’t just take one player with him … he took two. And the throw from Taylor to Clay was as easy as chucking a Nerf ball to your buddy at the beach.
Sort of. Clay said he’s never been this wide open in his life.
“And I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous when the ball was in the air,” Clay said. “It’s one of those, it seems like it takes forever to come down. Caught it. And the rest is history.”
Houston’s other safety wouldn’t provide any details, either. Andre Hal pointed to the fact that Buffalo used its “big personnel” and that Clay “got lost in the shuffle.” Earlier, Clay found room deep and alligator-armed Taylor’s pass. Not this time. Really, this is the byproduct of bruising a defense up front. The Bills set a smashmouth tone in gaining 187 yards on 36 rushing attempts and – with time dwindling – could’ve continued draining the clock to set up a game-winning field goal.
Roman went for the kill shot. Buffalo’s 2015 season has new life.
Mulligan repeats that he honestly couldn’t care less if he went his entire career without a catch. He enjoys blocking; he’s caught only 17 passes in six pro seasons.
“It’s fun to be able to play physical with guys,” Mulligan said, “and watch them break down over games as you continue to bring it, bring it, bring it and bring it.”
Buffalo was ready for everything Houston showed, too, a major reason the Bills gained 5.2 yards per carry.
“Nothing surprised us,” Mulligan said. “They did everything we thought they would do.”
And pounding away at J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork, Brian Cushing, Whitney Mercilus – Mulligan lists the first-round picks one by one – as the weather turns is a promising sign. The Bills’ identity on offense is now clear.
Run, run, run some more. Take a shot deep.
It sure helps if a safety bites on someone who’s essentially a third offensive tackle.
“They made a good play, they made a good play.”