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NOTEBOOK: Another Big Game For Clay; Other Notes

Posted Dec 8, 2013

Third-year tight end wreaked havoc on Pittsburgh’s defense.



All eyes at Heinz Field were on Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace today in his return to Pittsburgh, and that was fine by tight end Charles Clay because he prefers staying relatively unknown. That will be difficult for him to do after his game-changing performance.

Clay continued his knack for making big plays by hauling in seven passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns, the second one stunning the Steelers fans on hand and putting his team in the lead for good. It was a 12-yard scoring play with 2:53 left in the game and encompassed everything Clay has been about in this breakout season for him.

First, his crisp route running in slippery conditions put Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen in a bad spot right away as Clay got position in the flat. Then he showed off his sure hands in the cold and wet conditions by snatching the pass out of the air and turned into a running back, wrestling free from Allen’s grasp, shaking off a hit from safety Troy Polamalu and keeping his balance long enough to regain his footing and coast into the end zone for the 31-28 lead.

“It was just a stop route I run and honestly I didn’t thing he’d come to me right there,” said Clay, whose six receiving touchdowns this season are on shy of the team record at his position. “But we work together a lot and he trusted me enough to come to me in that situation and all I could think that close to the end zone was to do whatever I could to get into the end zone. I didn’t think I was going down at any point.”

Head Coach Joe Philbin described Clay’s touchdown where he was lined up away from the three wide receiver set as a basic play in Miami’s offense that was executed well. He has been preaching the importance of breaking tackles all season to both the running backs and the receivers and Clay did not disappoint.

“The guy comes to work hard everyday. He likes competing,” Philbin said. “He goes out and enjoys playing. He’s a good teammate, and he’s a talented guy as he has shown.”

Clay showed what he was capable all afternoon beginning with his 5-yard touchdown catch in the first half to put Miami ahead by a 10-7 score. He really turned it on in the second half, especially with his big 40-yard reception down the right sideline after Pittsburgh had erased a 17-7 deficit to take a 21-17 lead.

On that particular play, Clay wasn’t even the primary receiver but he got behind his man like he has done many times this season on linebackers and safeties. Tannehill aired it out and Clay secured the ball and got both feet inbounds at the Pittsburgh 25.

“Tannehill does a great job of playing off the looks he gets when he gets a certain look,” Clay said. “Obviously, he went through his first couple of reads and I guess he liked the matchup. He threw a perfect ball. I was telling people on the sideline he couldn’t have placed that ball in a better spot and like I said, he trusts me to make a play and I try to do all I can to come up for a play for him.”

Clay certainly did that more than enough times in this game.

TURNING POINT

With the Steelers holding a 28-24 lead and the two teams having traded punts twice, it looked like the home team was in control of the outcome.

But after a 9-yard pass from Tannehill to Brian Hartline set up a 2nd-and-1 for the Dolphins at their own 29 and under four minutes to play, running back Daniel Thomas ripped off a 55-yard run all the way down to the Pittsburgh 16.

Center Mike Pouncey pulled on the play and took out Polamalu to open up a second lane for Thomas, who cut back inside and completely turned safety Ryan Clark and Allen around before being caught from behind by cornerback William Gay. Two plays later, Clay caught the go-ahead touchdown pass.

“I was just looking at the defender, Clark, and it looked like he didn’t really want to tackle,” Thomas said. “So I just tried to make something and Mike Wallace made another block and that was it.”

STATISTICAL MILESTONES

Tannehill’s 48-yard run late in the first quarter was the longest of his career and the longest ever by a Dolphins quarterback, surpassing the 33-yard run by Pat White at New England on November 8th, 2009. His previous long was 31 yards on December 23rd, 2012 against the Buffalo Bills. … Tannehill put together the ninth multi-touchdown pass game of his career and it’s the third time he has done it in consecutive weeks. … Daniel Thomas’ 4-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was his team leading fourth of the season and eighth of his career. … When Philbin challenged the ruling that Hartline was out of bounds in the third quarter on what looked like a 4-yard touchdown catch and got it reversed he improved his record to 6-for-6 on replay challenges this season. … Defensive end Cameron Wake surpassed 50 career sacks with his sack and strip of Roethlisberger in the first half this afternoon, giving him 50.5. … Olivier Vernon recorded a sack for the fourth consecutive game and he leads the team with 11.5, with seven of those coming in the last four games. … The Dolphins racked up a season-high 181 yards on the ground.

NEXT

The Dolphins come back to Sun Life Stadium next Sunday to host the division rival New England Patriots at 1 p.m.

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