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Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon couldn’t hold on to this second quarter pass, but he had six catches and is emerging as one of Tom Brady’s favored targets.
Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon couldn’t hold on to this second quarter pass, but he had six catches and is emerging as one of Tom Brady’s favored targets.Jim Davis/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

FOXBOROUGH — How’s this for membership in the circle of trust?

Facing third-and-22 from the Jets’ 32-yard line Sunday, fresh off a rare intentional grounding penalty that had him complaining to officials, Tom Brady went to the one target he knew would help him out.

Josh Gordon.

With a pass deep down the left sideline that the 6-foot-3-inch Gordon jumped through traffic to retrieve and then touched down just inside the sideline, Brady converted the tough first down. Three plays later, Rex Burkhead made it count with a 2-yard touchdown plunge, capping the Patriots’ scoring for the day.

“Josh made a huge play,” Brady said, well aware Gordon had left the field on the team’s previous possession after crashing to the field on his left side, a collision that necessitated a trip to the medical tent.

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“He made a bunch all day,” Brady said. “He went wire to wire — he’s going to be pretty tired tomorrow. I’m proud of him, what he accomplished today. That was a huge play in the game.”

It wasn’t the only one Gordon made — he led the Patriots with 83 receiving yards, his six catches second only to Julian Edelman (7) and his 11 targets tops among a team that not only lost Edelman to injury at halftime, but cut ties with Antonio Brown on Friday. That leaves Gordon, the man who has battled substance abuse issues and served many long NFL suspensions, as one of the team’s primary weapons. He seems to be handling the load, not only physically, but mentally too.

“We call that war daddy deluxe, because he was out there, taking hits, I don’t know what he did to his finger but I’m assuming it wasn’t good. He showed a lot of toughness today,” Matthew Slater said. “You can’t help but smile when you see him out there, running around the field, doing what he loves to do. We’re really happy for him.”

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Said Gordon: “Some games are more painful than others. It’s a part of the game. I don’t think anybody likes getting banged up and have to come out of the game. But it’s just the reality of it . . . I’m just really glad [Tom] still has faith in me throughout the course of a game.”

Related: Julian Edelman suffered rib injury, but X-rays negative, report says

Related: Gunner Olszewski kicking himself after muffed punt led to touchdown

Related: Defense made sure Jets never got off the ground

Related: Patriots have issues lurking beneath the surface


Tara Sullivan can be reached at tara.sullivan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Globe_Tara.