BEREA, Ohio -- Can the Cleveland Browns win a game when one of their most dynamic offensive players is used as a decoy?
That’s one of the questions left from the fallout of the season-opening tie as the Browns point to Week 2 in New Orleans, a game that will be played indoors.
Which led Josh Gordon to say: “I love playing on turf.”
Gordon and the Browns played in the rain in Week 1, and he had just four passes thrown his way. One was negated by penalty. On another deep throw, Gordon said Joe Haden “definitely” interfered with him to stop a potential touchdown, but shrugged it off that some things are called and some aren’t. A third was the game-tying touchdown, and the fourth led to an interception caused, quarterback Tyrod Taylor said, by “miscommunication” when Gordon ran deep and Taylor threw as if he would cut off the route.
Gordon attributed his being officially targeted three times in 69 snaps to “uncontrolled variables” that happen during games.
“And we got to adapt to them as fast as we can,” he said.
Was he surprised he only had three targets?
“I think I went out there and served my purpose,” Gordon said. “Did what I was supposed to do, whether it be distract the safety, get somebody else open. More than anything, I don’t think about the targets.”
Which is the essential “do your job” approach to the game.
Gordon said he did not believe he was used as a decoy, though some of what he said might lean that way.
“Well, the focus can be exactly that: It can be distracting for a defense,” he said. “It keeps their focus on me, allowing Jarvis [Landry] to get open, allowing Rashard [Higgins] to get open, allowing the run game to develop. If that was the case, then I have no issue with it.”
The much-mentioned first play of the game, when Gordon started even though Hue Jackson had said he wouldn’t, is an example. It called for him to line up wide left, which hopefully would draw coverage to his side of the field. The Browns had three tight ends right, and Taylor rolled out right to throw, but ran when he saw nobody open.
Gordon said originally that play was supposed to be later in the opening drive. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley decided to make it the first snap. When Gordon heard pregame it was first, he said it didn’t make sense. When the personnel group was called before the play, Gordon recalled saying, ‘Ok, all right’ before he trotted on the field.
Gordon shrugged off not playing any of the rest of the first series or the entire second series.
“At that point, we got back into the game plan, I think,” he said. “I knew I was going to get my opportunity at some point in time.”
That came in the second half, when the Browns decided to go more Gordon after discussing it at halftime, Gordon said. Taylor did not throw once to him in the first half.
In talking about Thomas, Browns coach Hue Jackson gushed, and almost seemed to be talking about Gordon.
“He catches the ball,” Jackson said. “He makes plays for the offense and that’s what you want. It’s what you need at receiver for the quarterback to feel comfortable with you. And then he makes uncommon plays, whether it’s a catch or a broken tackle, he just makes those plays for their offense.”
Which sounds like a perfect description of what the Browns want from Gordon. Except the Saints made the effort to throw 17 passes to Thomas, while the Browns threw four (three officially) to Gordon. Hue Jackson had said the Browns would give the playing time and focus to the players who had been present through all of preseason and camp (Gordon missed time to his treatment). They did that, targeting Jarvis Landry 15 times.
"I don’t think there’s a holdup,” Jackson said of getting Gordon the ball. “I hear you. Obviously, last week is last week. I can’t go back and undo the Pittsburgh game. What we can do is move forward, and we have to put the ball in our guys’ hands this week and give them an opportunity to make plays.”
Jackson agreed there were offensive struggles -- Tyrod Taylor was 15-for-40 -- and said the offense has to “play faster, crisper, with more assurance.”
“And I think we will,” he added.
So many things can be questioned about a game plan when a team does not win, and when it has a long winless streak like the Browns do. Gordon accepts the role he played in Week 1, but said his feelings after the tie were “conflicted.” That summed up the feelings of the entire team.
He looks forward to playing on the Superdome’s “fast track.” However, he doesn’t want to look on it as if the offense can flip a switch and be more effective.
“We want to come in with it already turned on from the week of practice (and) training camp,” he said. “Hope to never have it turned off ever.”