By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Josh Gordon could have lied.
He could have said he didn’t quite see a lane to the end zone. He could have said his hamstring was still a little tender and he was worried he had tweaked it. He could have said he temporarily fainted.
He could have said anything.
Yet when speaking about his 55-yard catch and run that set up the Patriots’ game-winning touchdown in Chicago, Gordon told the truth.
He said he was out of gas.
“Unfortunately I got a little bit tired at the end of that 96-yard drive,” Gordon said with a slight chuckle.
That sputter proved to not matter much, as Tom Brady “threw” a two-handed semi-shovel pass to James White two plays later to get the Patriots in the end zone to go up 38-24. The Patriots would go on to win 38-31.
The play itself was also a significant one. It put the game-winning points on the board, obviously. It was also the Patriots’ longest offensive play of the entire game, and it got Gordon to a neat and tidy 100 yards on the afternoon.
It was Gordon’s first 100-yard game as a member of the Patriots, and just his second 100-yard day since he returned to the NFL last season.
It also came as part of an ever-increasing workload for the receiver, which was notable on this day because the Patriots were playing without Rob Gronkowski, who was inactive due to a back injury, as well as running back Sony Michel, who left early with a knee injury.
Gordon only caught four passes, but they were important. In addition to the 55-yarder, Gordon had enough of Tom Brady’s trust to be the recipient of a fourth-down pass.
It came on a fourth-and-1 at the Chicago 42-yard line. Brady said he liked the matchup and decided to go to Gordon. The receiver lined up against Kyle Fuller, and despite the defensive back being draped all over him, Gordon showed the strength and the focus to go up and snatch the ball out of the air. Gordon lost his helmet as he crashed to the ground, but he secured the football for a 19-yard gain. The Patriots would score a touchdown five plays later to take a 21-17 lead.
It was the second consecutive week that Gordon found himself targeted on a fourth down, but where last week’s against Kansas City fell incomplete, this one was executed much better.
“I think we just worked on that play, worked on the connection from last week, and having that miss,” Gordon said. “This week I kind of got a better look at it, better timing. I think with Tom, having a week of practice helped.”
Gordon of course wishes he found the end zone on that 55-yarder, but he said he was happy to have contributed to the win.
“It was fun, it was great, and I was glad I got a good touch on the ball and was able to make something happen,” he said.
That drive was one that Brady knew would be important, even when the Patriots were all the way back at their own 4-yard line.
“We really needed that,” Brady said of the 55-yarder. “We got the interception, [Jonathan Jones] picked the ball off, we had to go 96 yards. We were talking about, ‘Come on, this is the one, 96 yards.’ And we ended up doing it.”
That drive ended up being their longest drive — in terms of yardage — in a regular-season game since September 2011. And though Gordon didn’t cross the goal line, it was his play that led to the Patriots putting their final points of the day on the board.
For Gordon, the past month still must be a bit of a whirlwind. From an abrupt departure in Cleveland, to being thrown directly into the thick of the Patriots’ offense, to turning in a 100-yard game in a road victory, it’s all happening quite quickly for him.
Mind you, this is a player who’s now been a part of four wins with the Patriots. Prior to the trade, he had experienced a stretch of his team going 2-19-1. Winning four out of four games, while taking on a growing role in the offense, has to be a lot for any player to handle, let alone a player coming from that environment in Cleveland.
But Gordon — despite his well-known past, and despite the shaky circumstances that sent him to Foxboro — has been adjusting well. And without his presence on Sunday, the Patriots likely would have been too shorthanded to win the game.
That’s a thought that even the most optimistic of Gordon fans and Patriots supporters would have thought possible a month ago, but it speaks to the major steps forward the receiver has taken since arriving in New England.