FOXBOROUGH — For 13 days, Josh Gordon was more myth than football player, rarely seen and spoken of in big proclamations and vague banalities.
Sunday, Flash was in the flesh, playing his first game as a Patriot, presenting the first data point in the set of what he’ll accomplish in New England. It went well, which is more than can be said for the other stop-gap receiver additions the Patriots have brought in lately, all of whom became subtractions quickly. It looks like Gordon will stick around.
“I have no doubt I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity,” Gordon said after the Patriots’ 38-7 win over the Dolphins. “I’m more than blessed. I’m extremely grateful to be put in this scenario. I think the only thing right for me to do is take full advantage of it.”
Gordon played 18 of 78 offensive snaps, excluding kneeldowns, according to ESPN, the majority of which came in the first half. That’s a fairly heavy workload for a receiver in Gordon’s position, especially considering that he might have had more snaps later if the game had been competitive. The Patriots didn’t just ask him to run vertical routes, either.
“It took a lot of effort and time and work put in studying,” Gordon said. “All around, just a concerted effort from the training staff and what I could do on my end and try to make it work. But it was an awesome experience and I really enjoyed it, and a great opportunity.”
Gordon caught two passes for 32 yards, both of which converted third downs, a confidence-booster and trust-builder with Tom Brady. Gordon moved the chains a third time when he drew an illegal contact penalty on Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard.
In the first quarter, Gordon split levels of the Dolphins’ defense on an in-breaking route, snagged a ball from Brady, and gathered a few extra yards with his feet to pick up a first down on third and 6.
In the third quarter, Gordon broke three tackles on his way to a 19-yard reception on third and 3. After he finally went down, Brady ran over to him and patted his helmet.
“He’s put in a lot of work, a lot of time trying to understand where to line up and what to do, and he came up with some big plays today,” Brady said. “He kind of got us going in certain areas.”
Gordon appreciated the enthusiasm from his new quarterback.
“It’s awesome, period, catching a pass from Tom at any point in time,” Gordon said. “He’s been rooting for me, and it’s been awesome to have his support and his love, as well as the rest of the teammates and staff here. You know, Tom’s a passionate guy and I love that, and I love the game of football, and I think we’re going to mesh just fine.”
Gordon also helped as a blocker, taking out a cornerback on James White’s rushing touchdown.
All of this earned him effusive praise from Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
“I thought we got contributions from a lot of people, everybody. It was good to have all the guys out there,” Belichick said.
(If you fell for that, you know how Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald felt whiffing on Cordarrelle Patterson in the open field.)
It wasn’t a sure thing that Gordon, who has a hamstring injury, would play on Sunday. The question was whether he was physically ready, though. The Patriots were confident that he was ready mentally with the game plan and playbook.
“I’ve seen it up close and personal,” fellow receiver Phillip Dorsett said. “I know for a fact how much work he’s been putting in. I mean, not just because I’ve seen him work every day and he asks me hundreds of questions that I’m glad to answer, but I’ve been through it last year. We all know it’s tough. This is a complex offense, and you don’t have no offseason, no training camp, and you’ve just got to come in and learn on the fly? I mean, you’ve just missed so much.
“It’s hard to play here. For him to come in short term, make some big catches, and make some big blocks, that just shows what he is as a person and as a receiver.”
Gordon, a physically dominant receiver, was available for a conditional fifth-round draft pick from the Browns because Cleveland reached the end of its rope with his discipline issues. He said he believes he can stay on track in New England. Gordon has had multiple suspensions in his career for substance-abuse issues.
“I’m loving it, I’m enjoying it, the guys here are great, it’s a real home environment and I feel as comfortable as ever here,” Gordon said of getting another chance in New England. “It’s awesome.”