Charles Clay had his best game of the season Sunday with seven receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown in the Bills’ 33-13 win over the Browns.
The only thing he forgot to do was keep the ball.
Clay has scored in consecutive games since the birth of his first child on Dec. 4. Last week against Pittsburgh he ran through two defenders to score a 40-yard touchdown, but was so pumped for ending his career-long scoreless streak that he flipped the ball over his shoulder like a hitter discarding a bat after sending a hanging curveball into orbit.
In Sunday’s game, Clay ran past linebackers who seemed to forget about him, made a break toward the flag and then dove backward to haul in a 19-yard score. But when the referee signaled a touchdown, Clay again sent the ball flying.
“The biggest thing is I was upset I didn’t keep the ball,” Clay said. “I keep telling my little one I’m going to bring her a ball back. And I keep getting so excited – I just threw it. And I was like, ahh.”
Clay’s daughter will have to forgive him. He’s come on strong after seeming invisible to quarterback Tyrod Taylor for much of the season.
The Bills had to pay Clay handsomely to lure him away from the Miami Dolphins. But the tight end is posting on a career-low yards per reception this season and didn’t have a touchdown until Week 14. He went an entire month without a catch longer than 6 yards earlier this year and has only topped 100 yards once in two seasons with the team.
But Clay looked like the weapon the Bills paid for on Sunday.
“Charles definitely had a very big day today,” Taylor said. “Watching the film, he could win the matchups versus the safeties and the linebackers. So that would be a strong point going into this game and we were able to take advantage of the some the matchups that we got with him.”
Some fans wish Taylor would try to take advantage of Clay’s matchups more often. Taylor often seems hesitant to try to squeeze the ball into Clay and others over the middle. But Clay maintained that his volume of targets doesn’t matter to him as long as the team wins.
“My job, technically, is to get open,” Clay said. “That’s all I can do. I tell Tyrod, he’s got a lot going on back there. So I’ll never be a guy who comes to him and gets in his face and things like that. I’m running a route against one person usually. He has to worry about, you know, pass rush, coverage, all types of things. I don’t too much get in his face.
“I just try to tell him, ‘I’m there whenever you need me,’” Clay added. “It’s not frustrating to me. At the end of the day it does no good to get upset about it. It does me no good. Control what you can control and let the chips fall where they may.”
Clay said he occasionally hears from fans who ask why he hasn’t put up better numbers this season, but he tries to ignore most comments. He was also quick to point out that just because he appears open doesn’t mean the play for was him.
“When you’re just watching the game, you don’t know what (Taylor’s) reads are, you don’t know the play design,” he said. “I could easily be a decoy and just be running wide open, you just never know. There’s a lot that goes into it.”
But Sunday, he had Taylor’s full attention. They connected on all seven targets, culminating with the touchdown that put the Bills up 17-3 just before halftime.
“I cradled it,” he said of the catch just above the end zone turf. “I’ve been practicing holding a baby lately.”