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Josh Gordon's contributions vs. Colts were minimal

CLEVELAND — Josh Gordon is becoming a bit of a mystery.

Gordon was a near non-factor for the Cleveland Browns in their 25-24 loss to the Colts on Sunday, and even was taken off the field on a lot of third downs in favor of receivers Travis Benjamin and Taylor Gabriel.

“I think we wanted to get Josh’s reps down a little bit and kind of balance it out a little more,” coach Mike Pettine said. “Get Travis and Gabriel, get their reps back up a little bit.”

The guy who led the NFL in receiving yards while playing 14 games in 2013 leaves the field on the most important down for the offense, and loses reps for Benjamin and Gabriel.

Gordon was targeted seven times in the loss to the Colts, which matched the team high with Andrew Hawkins. But Gordon’s contribution was two catches for 16 yards. Since the win over the Falcons two weeks ago, his production has steadily dropped from eight to seven to two catches and from 120 to 75 to 16 yards.

Gordon's long for the day was a 9-yard reception on the first play of the game. The rest of the game he caught one pass for seven yards.

To say his numbers since he returned from a 10-game suspension are disappointing is like saying it’s a tad frosty in the Antarctic this time of year. With the Colts' best cornerback (Vontae Davis) sidelined with a concussion, Gordon was nearly invisible.

Gordon was not in the locker room after the game, so he did not address the media.

Gordon was involved in two key plays late, either of which could have affected the outcome. On the first, the Browns had third-and-7 from their 38-yard line with four minutes left. Brian Hoyer dropped back and threw over the middle. Gordon made what appeared to be a catch as he fell, with Greg Toler on his back.

Officials ruled it a catch, but then Indianapolis challenged. Replays showed the ball slipping though Gordon’s arms and hitting the ground. That forced a punt, which Colts quarterback Andrew Luck turned into the game-winning drive.

The catch was not an easy one, but Gordon had both hands on it and dropped it. Had he hung on, the Browns would have run more clock, or forced the Colts to use their timeouts. It was a play that made the loss of Miles Austin to a lacerated kidney sting, because Austin had been making that catch all season.

“It’s unfortunate,” Hoyer said. “I mean, you complete that one and take some more time off the clock and move the ball even farther down the field.”

After Luck threw the go-ahead touchdown, the Browns took over at their 13 with 28 seconds left. On first down Hoyer threw deep down the sideline to Gordon.

But Gordon stopped running at about the 50. He started running again after he saw Hoyer throw. Gordon was behind his defender, but the ball went through his outstretched fingers at the Colts 32.

Would continuing to run have led to the completion?

It sure wouldn’t have hurt. The ball landed right at the sideline, and Gordon had a step. But instead of running in stride to the ball he stopped and started again.

“For as far as the ball was, I didn’t get a chance to see it,” Hoyer said. “I saw him lying on the ground, so I didn’t happen to look up at the replay. It’s something I’ll have to watch.”

Neither were Gordon's finest moments.