With 8:19 left to play in the third quarter from the Bills 10-yard line, quarterback Tyrod Taylor hit tight end Charles Clay for a 21-yard strike down the left sideline. It was the Bills longest play of the day to that point, and it was their first play longer than 15 yards.
The Bills mustered just three points and 78 yards in the first half as they fell behind the New York Giants 16-3 early in their 24-10 loss. In the second half, though, the offense found ways to pick up good yardage in chunks, ultimately outgaining the Giants 313 yards to 303. The second half offensive success makes the loss even tougher to stomach for wide receiver Robert Woods, who cited a handful of reasons as to why the game did not go the Bills way.
"A slow start. Turnovers—we put the ball on the ground," he said. "Penalties. There were a lot of little things that factored into our loss, but they are all on us."
Despite not taking advantage of it until the second half, wide receiver Chris Hogan said that the Bills enjoyed an advantage in passing game because of the Giants defensive game plan.
"They played a lot of zone coverage. Anytime they play in zone, the middle of the field will be left open if we're putting stress on their safeties vertically," he said.
This advantage in the middle of the field allowed Clay to make his mark on the game. In addition to the 21-yard catch midway through the third quarter, Clay and Taylor connected for gains of 20 (twice) and 27 yards. Clay also hauled in a 32-yard touchdown reception that was called back because of a chop block.
"Every single time we did [put stress on the safeties], it seemed like it opened up a lot for Charles," Hogan said.
Clay finished with nine receptions and 111 yards, his best performance as a Bill. The 111 yards put him over 2,000 (2,064) for his career. His performance allowed his teammates to distill some positive from the loss.
"He's been a big player for us since he [arrived here], just getting opportunities to get the ball into his hands. He's an explosive player. Every time he touches it, he does something with it," Woods said of Clay.
"It's amazing. We have so many threats on this offense—Percy, Clay, Robert, when Sammy gets back, even Gragg and all those guys—we're tough to guard," said Hogan. "You can't double team anybody. [Clay's presence] opens up a lot for everyone else."
Clay was also the Bills leading receiver in the team's Week Three win in Miami, racking up 82 yards on five catches and finding pay dirt one time. His performance Sunday was especially necessary because the team was without running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Sammy Watkins. While such large absences certainly hurt, Woods will not use them as an excuse.
"We all feel like we're here for a reason. We're all here to make these plays. We just have to step in and win," he said. "We're missing these guys, and we can't wait to get them back, but we still have to win with or without them."
The status of McCoy and Watkins for next week is unknown this far in advance, but the Bills will be taking at least one of their biggest weapons with them to Tennessee next week in Clay. And while Taylor does see Clay as a bright spot, he said the real key will be execution, something they did not do enough of this week.
"We had the opportunities," he said, "But just didn't do it."