EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Charles Clay took a moment to think and search through his memory bank. What happened on his 28-yard catch in the second quarter? He had made so many plays Sunday that he needed a moment to remember a specific one.
In the Dolphins’ 23-3 victory over the Jets at MetLife Stadium, Clay was quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s reliable safety valve. He caught seven passes for 80 yards and was Tannehill’s second-most targeted receiver. In a game in which the Jets’ passing defense allowed 331 yards, Clay was an problem they had trouble solving.
“He came in clutch for us,” Tannehill said.
Clay’s second catch of the game, a 17-yard reception, gave Miami a first down on a 3rd-and-12 at their own 31-yard line. The catch, Tannehill thought, was a barometer for how the day would go.
It was one of four catches by Clay that netted first downs — two of which came on third down.
“That kind of set the tone, alright, we’re going to be able to get some third downs on these guys,” Tannehill said. “As a playmaker, he’s been doing it all year and he stepped up big today.”
Clay was also the intended receiver on what seemed like it would be one of the most integral plays of the game. Having driven all the way down to the Jets’ one-yard line, the Dolphins handed off to Clay on third down but he was stuffed for no gain. In a scoreless game, coach Joe Philbin eschewed a field goal attempt and decided to go for it on fourth down from the goal line.
The Dolphins lined up with three receivers and Tannehill operating out of the shotgun. Clay lined up inside in the slot, with linebacker DeMario Davis in coverage. Tannehill said he felt that Clay was held a little bit at the line of scrimmage, but Clay earned some space and Tannehill lofted a pass to the back corner of the end zone, but it was out of his grasp.
Tannehill blamed the failed play on himself, saying he missed the throw.
“I probably could have run a better route in that situation,” Clay said. “Obviously, you can’t get those back but if I could, I’d probably run a better route in that situation.”
Clay entered the day tied for the sixth-most catches among all tight ends in the NFL and third-most among those in the AFC.
He was effective immediately. On the Dolphins’ first drive, Clay was called for a penalty that negated Lamar Miller’s 17-yard reception that would have put the offense at the Jets’ 3-yard line. But he quickly made up for it, catching all seven passes in the first half.
“I feel like every week we have to go in with a mindset that it doesn’t matter who covers you,” he said. “Obviously, those [Jets] linebackers are some of the best cover linebackers that you’ll play against. You just have to go out with the mind-set.”