FOXBORO, Mass. — No Rob Gronkowski, no Sony Michel, no problem. That’s pretty easy to say when Josh Gordon is involved, though.
Can you believe the New England Patriots only had to give up a fifth-round pick for this guy? Plus they got a seventh-round pick back from the Cleveland Browns. This might wind up being one of best trades Bill Belichick has swung in his coaching career. And there’s plenty to choose from.
Gordon caught five passes for 130 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown, Sunday night in the Patriots’ 31-17 win over the Green Bay Packers. And the Patriots needed him with Gronkowski and Michel inactive.
After a strong, rapid-fire first drive in which the Patriots needed just three minutes and 20 seconds to march 59 yards down the field for a touchdown on 10 plays, the Patriots’ offense got stagnant. They relied on their defense and were knotted 17-17 into the fourth quarter when their offense finally caught fire again.
Gordon delivered the dagger with his 55-yard score.
“I think we caught them off balance, switching defenses in transition,” Gordon recalled on the play. “They dropped into a zone. Someone just forgot to cover me. I was just able to idle. Tom saw it. We all saw it. And I just had to make a break on the ball and then try to finish the play after that.”
Gordon finished the play by breaking an arm tackle from Packers safety Tramon Williams and waltzing into the end zone.
Tom Brady recalled the play similarly.
“The corner just flew up on the fake,” Brady said. “I just saw Josh, so I threw it, and Julian (Edelman) thought I missed him. Josh made a great catch and run. It was a big play in the game. We needed a big play like that.”
Gordon showed toughness earlier in the game. He had to sit out a few plays in the third quarter after injuring his finger.
“I guess it was just a freak accident,” Gordon said. “Nothing too crazy, but after one of the slant routes, some pressure fell on it and it just dislocated. So, I popped it back into place a couple times throughout the rest of the game. It’s fine, though.”
Gordon said it was “pretty painful” but it certainly didn’t seem to affect him late in the game.
Gordon has become famous for snagging passes out of the air six games into his Patriots career. He made a highlight catch early in the second quarter that showed how much trust he’s earned from Brady.
“I love it. We talk about it every week in practice,” Gordon said about Brady throwing him contested targets. “He enjoys doing it, I enjoy doing it. I let him know if you can get it anywhere in the vicinity, I’m going to try to make a play on it, make a good effort to try to get it. We missed one of them I was out of bounds, but it was great that he has a certain amount of trust in me to put it up in my direction. I just want to come down and make a play on it. It was awesome to have it done.”
Gordon now has 23 catches for 413 yards with three touchdowns, one of which came with the Browns, on the season. This was Gordon’s second 100-yard game in a Patriots uniform. He’s showing Flashes, pardon the pun, of the player he was with the Browns back in 2013, when he led the NFL in receiving. And he seems to be improving week after week.
It pays to have a weapon like Gordon at your disposal when your starting running back and most dangerous pass catcher are down with injuries. Imagine what this offense will look like when everyone’s back on the field.