By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
OK, I can’t speak for the rest of you. But if you ask me, the single most positive development for the Patriots on Sunday was the play of wide receiver Josh Gordon.
Wait, what? A positive take?
Yes, a positive take.
If you have Gordon on your fantasy team, you’re probably underwhelmed. But you’re missing the point. Prior to Sunday, the Patriots were 26-of-49 on throws to Gordon this season – a poor 53.1 percent. To everyone else, the Patriots were completing passes at a rate of 66.7 percent, which is far more consistent with what they have been during Tom Brady’s career.
And before Sunday’s, in Gordon’s last game – against Tennessee – the Pats were a wretched 4-of-12 on throws to Gordon, including some ill-advised tosses down the field.
So what happened against the Jets?
This is what happened: a perfect day. Five targets, five catches.
Here’s a quick breakdown of Gordon’s catches:
First quarter, first-and-10 from the Patriots 25, 23-yard gain. The Jets had just scored to go up, 7-0. On the first play after the kickoff, Brady goes through his progressions on settles on Gordon, who is running a deep in-cut from the left side. Five plays later – after the Jets stupidly accepted a penalty that gave the Patriots a second chance on third down – Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown. Tie game.
Second quarter, first-and-18 from the Patriots 20, 16-yard gain. After a holding penalty by Trent Brown negated a 25-yard run by Sony Michel, the Pats were in a first-and-long situation at their own 20. Gordon runs a curl and finds a soft spot in the Jets zone to put the Pats in a second-and-2 situation. New England didn’t score on the drive, the possession helped the Pats flip position and get a field goal on the next possession.
Second quarter, second-and-10 from the Jets 47, 13-yard gain. One of Gordon’s two best catches of the game. Replays show that Brady’s pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage. Gordon is running a slant from the left side, adjusts to catch the ball in midflight, then secures the pass before contact and gets a first down. Six plays later, a Stephen Gostkowski field goal gave the Pats their first lead of the day.
Fourth quarter, third-and-10 from the Jets 47, 17-yard gain. Easily Gordon’s most important catch of the game. Clinging to a 20-13 lead, the Pats faced a critical third down with 12:24 to play. Brady goes through his progressions before settling on Gordon, who is running an out on the right sideline. Brady throws the ball down and away – and a sprawling Gordon goes down and gets it to extend the possession. Gordon earns the immediate praise of his quarterback and the Pats eventually go in for a touchdown and 27-13 lead.
For what it’s worth, Gordon’s final catch came on a third-and-9 at the New England 15 with about six minutes left. He ran a shallow crossing pattern before accepting the pass from Brady and getting immediately taken down. The Jets covered the play well, but it completed a perfect day for the combination of quarterback-and-receiver.
Overall, it’s worth noting that all of Gordon’s catches came on routes to the sidelines or in the middle of the field. There were no low-percentage, downfield tosses that have seemingly marked Gordon’s early tenure with the Patriots and, more specifically, the recent loss at Tennessee.
Could it be that Gordon and the Patriots passing game are starting to meld?