Josh Gordon gave the New England Patriots’ offense a much-needed vertical weapon during his brief stint with the team.

From his debut in Week 4 through his final game in Week 15, the Baylor product gave the Patriots a deep threat on the outside who could take the top off a defense and open up the middle of the field for Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski.

Then, prior to New England’s Week 16 tilt with the Buffalo Bills, Gordon announced he was stepping away from football to focus on his mental health and subsequently was suspended for violating the terms of his reinstatement.

With two weeks to go until the playoffs, the Patriots were forced to alter their offensive approach on the fly and adjust to life without Gordon, who Brady had developed a quick rapport with.

The Patriots, unsurprisingly, adapted well, electing to go back to a run-heavy game plan with an intermediate passing game and it served them well in playoff wins over the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs.

With the Patriots’ offense firing on all cylinders heading into Super Bowl LIII, is it fair to wonder if the loss of Gordon actually helped New England improve its attack? Rob Ninkovich believes so.

“He helped them when he’s gone,” Ninkovich said on “The Ex-Pats Podcast.” “Guess what? (Brady’s) not forcing it to Gordon in crazy situations. He’s taking what the defense gives him, which is ‘OK, it’s zone. Bang, I go here. OK, backfoot hits, OK, (James) Develin on a wheel. It’s good for 10.’ Like, what quarterback throws to their fullback? Tom Brady because it works and it’s going to be a first down. So instead of saying, ‘I have a freak athlete who looks like God’s gift on the field, superhuman, superhero, let me force it to him. Let me give it to everybody, let me spread the wealth.’ Which is, that’s what you have to do playing against a terrible defense.”

While the Patriots’ offense has been lethal in two playoff games without Gordon, there’s no doubt Brady and Co. wish they had No. 10 suiting up for them on Feb. 3 when they’ll face the high-powered Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.