Browns WR Josh Gordon on record run
Once the ball was in his hands and then tucked under his right arm, Josh Gordon let his legs take care of the rest.
With every long stride, Cleveland's sensational wide receiver pulled further away from New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib, who after being slowed by a stiff arm, had no chance of catching Gordon and eventually slowed down and watched him complete his 80-yard touchdown reception.
Like Usain Bolt in shoulder pads, Gordon was a blur.
From the sideline, Browns cornerback Joe Haden knew Talib was in trouble.
''Once he didn't tackle him as soon as he caught it, I was like, `Oh yeah, he's about to run away from this dude,''' Haden said. ''That's a bad feeling when you just can't catch somebody.''
Lately, nobody can catch Gordon.
With 774 yards receiving, Gordon has put together the best four-game stretch of any player in NFL history. In the past four games, he has 36 catches, five touchdowns, two 200-yard games, set team records for yards in a game and season and tied the club mark for receptions in a game.
Gordon's 1,400 yards leads the league and he's averaging 127.3 yards per game, also tops in the league. He's accomplished it all despite playing in just 11 games after being suspended from the Browns' first two games for failed drug tests.
However, the most impressive number tied to Gordon may be 22 - his age. He's just getting started.
''He can get so much better,'' said Haden, who goes against Gordon in practice. ''I hope he knows how good he can get. I try to tell him and I think he's getting it. When he locks in and he comes out there and he goes hard and just imposes his will basically. He's big, fast, strong, can catch, and when the ball comes his way, he's just - J.G.'s different. He's just different.''
Gordon finished with seven receptions for 151 yards on Sunday, and although it wasn't his best statistical game, it may have been his most impressive performance to date.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick put Talib, his best defensive player, in single coverage on Gordon. It was a mismatch as Gordon dominated Talib, who was called for three penalties - one was declined - while trying to stop the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder.
Unable to handle Gordon physically, Talib resorted to some verbal warfare.
''He talked a lot,'' Gordon said. ''He definitely talked a lot like I expected him to. We exchanged some words, but you know I think the plays spoke for themselves a lot more.''
There was Gordon's 80-yard TD on a slant, his 34-yard run on a reverse and his 19-yard catch on third-and-17 in the fourth that set up a touchdown, giving Cleveland a 26-14 lead. Gordon did all he could to put his team in position to win, but just as they've done during his remarkable four-game stretch, the Browns lost.
Gordon said the four-game slide has stung.
''It does because they're so close, games that we could've won, we should've won just coming down to the last few seconds,'' he said. ''Teams are scoring points with a few seconds or maybe like a minute left in the game. It hurts to watch everything you worked hard for just crumble down so quickly.''
But Gordon's spectacular rise has given Cleveland fans hope and brought some deserved attention to a player just starting to tap into his potential.
Gordon's credits his success to hard work and staying hungry. He won't change now.
''I haven't reached where I'm trying to go and I try to stay humble,'' he said. ''That's really just my personality through and through.''
That humility has made an impression on Gordon's teammates, who marvel at his talent every day in practice and rest of the world sees on game day. Haden believes Gordon has moved into the elite class of wide receivers with Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green and others.
''J.G., he's playing on another level right now,'' he said. ''He's doing the right things. He's making all the plays he has to. I mean 230 (yards), 260, 150, there's nothing else you can say. Nobody else is doing it. If other receivers were doing this stuff, then other people would be like, `they're stepping up, they're becoming elite.' He's just becoming better and better and better. He's still young, he's 22 and he's handling it.
''He's got 1,400 receiving yards. Numbers don't lie.''
NOTES: Browns QB Brandon Weeden practiced for the first time since sustaining a concussion on Dec. 1 against Jacksonville. Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said it's too early to know if Weeden can back up Jason Campbell this week against Chicago. ... Haden expressed confidence he will be with Browns after his contract expires in 2015. He said he doesn't know if negotiations are underway for a new deal. ... Browns RB Willis McGahee missed practice as he recovers from a concussion suffered Sunday against New England.
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