April 20, 2014

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Historic 4-game streak, including big game against New England’s Aqib Talib, convinces Browns WR Josh Gordon he deserves to be in Pro Bowl

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon runs toward the goal line past New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib after a catch in the third quarter. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon runs toward the goal line past New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib after a catch in the third quarter. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BEREA — Josh Gordon made New England’s Aqib Talib look silly. He’s arguably the best cornerback Gordon will face this year.

Gordon rendered Patriots coach Bill Belichick defenseless. He’s made a career of taking away the opposition’s most dangerous threat.

Gordon, Cleveland’s record-setting receiver, continued his torrid stretch Sunday with seven catches for 151 yards and a touchdown. He ran free most of the day, and the names and resumes of the player and coach trying to slow him down made the performance that much more impressive.

“Just determination,” Gordon said Wednesday. “Just having a strategy and wanting it just as bad as he did. Just wanted to come out on top every time.”

Gordon, 22, is on the best streak in the history of NFL receivers. He holds the league records for two- (498 yards), three- (649) and four-game (774) stretches. He needs 88 yards Sunday for the five-game mark, which Detroit’s Calvin Johnson holds with 861.

“I’m sure it’s a great statistic to have but I don’t think about that a lot,” he said.
He leads the league with 1,400 yards, 127.3 yards per game and 19.7 yards per catch. He’s within range of breaking the all-time record of 129 yards a game set by San Diego’s Wes Chandler in the strike-shortened 1982 season.

In only 11 games, Gordon obliterated Braylon Edwards’ franchise record for receiving yards in a season, 1,289 in 16 games in 2007. Gordon’s seven 100-yard games are a club record and tied for the most in the league, and he has 71 catches and eight touchdowns.

The stats and records haven’t gone to Gordon’s head, but they have changed his opinion of himself. He dismissed Pro Bowl talk a couple of weeks ago but now feels he belongs.

“Hopefully with the rest of the season the numbers stay where they are and I can do good individually, and I definitely expect to be there,” he said. “I really think I am (among the best) that’s for sure, and hopefully I can stay there and keep performing at that level.”

He has a believer in cornerback Joe Haden, who also hopes to make the all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii for the first time. Gordon, who’s eligible despite the early season suspension, isn’t among the top 10 vote-getters among the fans. Players and coaches vote later in the month.

“J.G., he’s playing on another level right now,” Haden said. “He’s doing the right things. He’s making all the plays he has to. I mean 230, 260, 150, there’s nothing else you can say. Nobody else is doing it.”

Gordon started the four-game stretch with 125 yards vs. Cincinnati. He followed with a franchise-record 237 against Pittsburgh, set another franchise record with 261 against Jacksonville and then torched Talib.
Gordon has five touchdowns over the span, including scores from 74, 80 and 95. The 80-yarder might’ve broken Talib’s spirit, as Gordon took a simple slant, stiff-armed Talib and left him and the rest of the defense in his dust.

“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 for sure,’” Haden said. “That’s a bad feeling when you just can’t catch somebody.”
Talib gave up the pursuit quickly.

“If he would’ve kept running, he might’ve pulled his hamstring or something,” Haden said.
After Gordon high-stepped into the end zone, he broke out a celebration dance that included adding an ingredient to a pot, then stirring.

“I took it from a season ago,” he said. “When I feel as though we’re cooking up as a team, that’s something I do.”

The Browns couldn’t finish the mission, falling 27-26. They’ve dropped four straight, and a frustrated Gordon left Sunday without talking to reporters.

“It hurts to watch everything you worked hard for just crumble down so quickly,” he said.
Haden knows receivers. He sees the opposition’s best every week and appreciates what a challenge it is to try to stop some of the world’s best athletes.

He ranks Gordon near the top, behind only Detroit’s Johnson and on par with Cincinnati’s A.J. Green. Both are Pro Bowlers.

“The same level of dominance because they do their thing every week, you have to prepare for A.J., you have to prepare for J.G.,” Haden said. “He just jumps out of the screen, like ‘all right, we have to stop 12.’ When people start worrying about you and game-planning for you, that’s when you know you’re a problem.

“Man, he’s doing things nobody’s done. He’s just becoming better and better and better. He’s still young, he’s 22 years old and he’s handling it. He’s got 1,400 receiving yards. Numbers don’t lie.”

Bears wideouts Brandon Marshall (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) and Alshon Jeffery (6-3, 216) have eclipsed 1,000 yards for the season and have big bodies similar to Gordon (6-3, 225). Haden raved about the pair of Bears, but sees a separator with Gordon.

“The thing J.G. has that’s different than all these big receivers is he’s legit fast,” he said. “These big guys are moving, they’re 4.4 and 4.5-low, but J.G. is legitimately 4.3. So when you can run away from people the way he can being that big, it puts a whole different thing into the game.”

Talib tried everything to slow down Gordon.

“He definitely talked a lot like I expected him to,” Gordon said. “We exchanged some words, but you know I think the plays spoke for themselves a lot more.”

Talib also tried to get physical by hitting Gordon early in the route, and Gordon called him the “most aggressive, scrappy, hands-on, touching type of player” he had faced.

“It didn’t work too good for him,” said Gordon, who also drew three penalties on Talib.

Belichick didn’t do Talib any favors by leaving him in man coverage much of the game. Gordon said he hasn’t seen much double coverage and hopes it doesn’t arrive in the last three weeks.

“They’ve got to start doing something,” Haden said.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.

FOUR WEEKS FORM HISTORY

Josh Gordon’s last four games have been unmatched in NFL history in terms of yards gained. Here’s a breakdown of that stretch
and his season totals to date.

No. Yds. Avg. TDs
Dec. 8 at New England 7 151 21.6 1
Dec. 1 vs. Jacksonville 10 261 26.1 2
Nov. 24 vs. Pittsburgh 14 237 16.9 1
Nov. 17 at Cincinnati 5 125 25.0 1
4-game totals 36 774 21.5 4
Season totals 71 1,400 19.7 8

NEXT UP

WHO: Cleveland vs. Chicago
WHEN: Sunday, 1 p.m.
WHERE: FirstEnergy Stadium
TV/RADIO: Channel 19; WKNR 850-AM, WKRK 92.3-FM, WNCX 98.5-FM