Josh Gordon played through painful injuries to keep the New England offense efficient and effective sans Antonio Brown and Julian Edelman.
Each of the New England Patriots‘ past four games has been dominated by the exemplary contributions of a different wide receiver.
Against the L.A. Rams in Super Bowl 53, it was Julian Edelman who provided all the necessary offense en route to winning the game’s MVP award. In Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, it was Phillip Dorsett who broke out with two gigantic touchdown receptions. Week 2’s contest against the Miami Dolphins belonged to Antonio Brown, the prized pickup who was immediately worked into the passing game.
In Week 3 against the New York Jets, all the honor and accolades deserve to go to Josh Gordon.
Sure, Edelman and Dorsett were both fantastic in their own rights, with each securing a touchdown pass from Tom Brady early in the game. Obviously Brown was no longer with the team after getting cut on Friday, so he’s ineligible for any consideration. And it should go without saying that through three weeks of the season, the Patriots defense is the true star of the show for New England.
But once Edelman exited in the second quarter with a rib injury and the New England offense suddenly found itself surprisingly thin at several key positions, it was Gordon who stepped up to the plate and delivered in one of his grittiest performances as a member of the Patriots.
According to NBC Sports Boston’s Nick Goss, Gordon himself briefly exited the game right before halftime with a potential hip injury after taking a hard fall while trying to secure a catch. He disappeared in the blue medical tent along the New England sideline before returning to action in the third quarter – and then getting hurt again after he got “a few of his fingers caught in a Jets player’s facemask.”
No one could have blamed Gordon if he’d wanted to take the rest of the afternoon off as a precautionary measure.
After all, he’d already missed significant snaps on offense twice in one game because of two separate injuries – the second of which (fingers) looked particularly uncomfortable. Gordon was spotted by TV cameras grimacing in pain as he gingerly held his hand and ran off to the bench, ostensibly to have his fingers reset after some may have become dislocated.
And yet none of this kept the Patriots star from finishing the game.
“Some weeks are more painful than others,” Gordon told reporters after the game, per Goss. “It’s not always that bad, but it’s part of the game. I don’t think anybody likes to get banged up or have to come out of the game. It’s just the reality of it.”
There’s an old NFL saying that suggests players stand a 100% chance of getting injured during the course of their careers. While some do a better job of avoiding significant catastrophe than others (think Tom Brady versus Rob Gronkowski, for example), it’s clear that professional football is a beautiful but brutal sport that requires a gladiator’s mentality from all its participants. It’s no small wonder, then, that Dorsett referred to Gordon as a “warrior” after the game.
Here’s more of what “Warrior Josh Gordon” said after his team-leading 83 yards on six receptions against the Jets:
"“I think the more important part is how many times do you get knocked down and come back. That’s my mindset. That’s my attitude. If it doesn’t take me out all the way where I can’t physically do it, I’m going to be back out there within a couple plays – if I’m medically approved to do so – I’m going to go back out there no matter what it is that’s hurting me.”"
The highlight of Gordon’s afternoon – without a doubt – was this 28-yard completion from Brady late in the third quarter:
As incredible as that catch is considering Gordon made it over a Jets defender while still managing to maintain his balance and get both feet in-bounds, is the fact that it also came after two of his fingers had been taped following the hand injury.
If Edelman is forced to miss Sunday’s game against the 3-0 Buffalo Bills, the Patriots and their fans can at least take some solace in knowing that Gordon will be out there on offense, catching Brady bombs and exhibiting the kind of herculean effort that makes him a matchup nightmare in the NFL.