Gordon worth the wait for Browns
ATLANTA - The Cleveland Browns didn't want Josh Gordon to feel like he had to be the savior of their season upon returning from a 10-game suspension.
They're apparently not opposed to Gordon actually being that -- or, at very least, playing a big part in an offense that's glad to have him.
A wild win Sunday keeps the Browns above water at 7-4 and very much in contention for their first playoff berth in 12 years. The return of No. 12 -- as gifted as he ever was -- certainly helps the cause.
Gordon caught eight passes for 120 yards in his season debut Sunday, none bigger than a 24-yarder on what became the game-winning field goal drive as the Browns rallied to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 26-24.
Gordon was targeted 16 times, or on 40 percent of Hoyer's passes.
He was both busy and productive from the beginning; he had four catches for 70 yards in the first half. If Gordon was tired it either didn't show or didn't matter.
"The adrenaline kept me going," Gordon said.
The 6'3 Gordon proved last year he can change games. A separate suspension forced him to miss the first two games of 2013, and in 14 games he went on to post an NFL-best 1,646 receiving yards.
He's just 23. And eight weeks ago he was working as a car salesman.
A rare reversal in NFL policy in September changed Gordon's suspension from a minimum of a year to 10 games. He was allowed to be around his teammates and work out in team facilities, but he wasn't allowed to practice until last week.
He's immediately changed the Browns offense.
"It was obvious to us during the week that Josh had stayed in shape," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "He got better as the week went on."
Pettine said pregame reports that the Browns only planned to play Gordon 25-30 plays weren't true. He played that many in the first half.
Pettine said there was "some" miscommunication between Gordon and Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer, and on two of Hoyer's interceptions it appeared that could have played a role.
"But we felt like we weren't going to hold them back," Pettine said. "We were willing to put up with some of that for the positives which we obviously saw."
Said Gordon: "I told Brian not to give up on me."
In a game full of strange plays and strange decisions, Gordon alertly throwing the ball away after a botched reverse attempt in the third quarter saved the Browns valuable yards. The Browns ended up driving for a field goal.
Every point and every second counted. The Browns won on Billy Cundiff's fourth field goal of the day, a 37-yarder, as time expired.
Hoyer said he was trying to let Gordon use his athleticism to make a play on a fourth-quarter interception in the back of the end zone. The ball hung up and was intercepted by Marcus Trufant.
"It's the trust that I have in him," Hoyer said. "I just have to be smarter, play the next play."
Their quarterback-wide receiver chemistry should improve. Gordon might both get his full wind and a better grasp of the offense.
"It's just a matter of time," Gordon said. "Just opportunity."