Stopping, or more reasonably slowing down, wide receiver Josh Gordon will be the key to victory for the New England Patriots when they face off against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Gordon, who has been on a historic receiving tear the last couple of weeks, has the ability to single-handedly steal the game from the Patriots.
Taking Gordon out of the game will be easier said than done for a New England secondary that has seen its share of struggles in the past few weeks. Injuries have slowed down cover corners Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard, leaving New England relegated to their all too familiar keep-everything-in-front-of them zone defenses that have led to some frustrating afternoons the past few years.
As frustrating as that bend-but-don’t-break defensive scheme can be to the fans, it may be the best solution to the Gordon problem. With a game-changing, big-play type of receiver, the best way to keep him in check will not be risking the big play to keep the ball out of his hands but to limit where he can catch it and what he can do afterwards.
That task will mostly be on the shoulders of the secondary but not entirely. Gordon does some of his best work down the deeper parts of the field, and the key to shortening the length of his receptions will be pass rushers like Chandler Jones putting pressure on whoever happens to be under center for Cleveland on Sunday.
Gordon may or may not be the next big thing in NFL wide receivers, but there is no question that he is the right now. The Patriots will need to cut his historic statistical run short if they want to earn a win against the pesky Browns this weekend.