BALTIMORE — Steve McNair kept looking downfield, trying to locate his established targets. While the Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback ultimately connected with tight end Todd Heap for the game-winning touchdown, he probably wouldn’t have been in position to forge a 16-13 victory Sunday over the San Diego Chargers without exercising his third receiving option.
The contribution of wide receiver Mark Clayton proved to be invaluable in the Ravens’ six-play, 60-yard drive capped by Heap’s 10-yard touchdown catch.
Although Clayton finished with only four catches for 37 yards, the second-year wide receiver hauled in receptions of 17 and 13 yards to get Baltimore down to the Chargers’ 10-yard line in the final minute.
“Whatever it takes to help this team win,” Clayton said. “I catch the ball and make plays. As a receiver, that’s your job.”
When asked whether defenses overlook him as a threat because they’re concentrating on stopping Heap and two-time Pro Bowl receiver Derrick Mason, Clayton laughed and declined to take much credit.
One week after catching a career-high eight passes in the Ravens’ 15-14 win over the Cleveland Browns where he caught three passes in the fourth quarter, Clayton was a major factor late in the fourth quarter.
“Going back into training camp, the offensive mentality was we would make plays whenever plays were needed,” said Clayton, who has 15 receptions for 159 yards for the season. “The play Heap made was by far the biggest on the drive.”
Against the NFL’s top-ranked defense, last year’s first-round draft pick withstood some heavy contact on crossing routes.
“I got knocked over the middle a couple of times,” Clayton said. “It was fun, though. That’s football. You’ve got to love that.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.