Josh Gordon has made his career -- no matter how many interruptions it has seen -- on a foundation of having excellent hands.
He can catch passes at all levels of the field and win a jump ball over pretty much any defender, and when combined with his speed and overall athleticism, he makes for one tough cover on a typical Sunday. This is precisely what makes what happened in a Week 10 loss to Tennessee (and the initial information disseminated afterward) so unusual.
First, let's set the record straight: No matter what you read, Gordon did not drop eight passes Sunday.
A review of Gordon's 12 targets show only two passes that can be fairly counted as drops, and they both came within the same minute in the first quarter. The first was on a throw attempted by Tom Brady down the sideline, which Gordon timed properly and simply saw it go right through his hands. The second was on a quick slant on third and short, a very catchable pass that again went through Gordon's hands.
Gordon entered the game with a finger injury suffered just a week ago that required popping it back into place. He went with a usual glove early in the game before buddy taping it to a neighboring finger, per the CBS broadcast. It seemed to help, at least somewhat, as Gordon caught two tight-window passes over the middle later in the game.
New England didn't allow the drops to change its gameplan, either, feeding the receiver nine times in the first half. After the game, he downplayed any effect the finger injury might have had on his performance.
"My hand's fine," Gordon told reporters after New England's 34-10 defeat, via Boston.com. "Physically, I feel good. Blessed to walk away with it unharmed, so thankful for that."
The true explanation for Gordon's odd 12-target, four-reception stat line, though, was good defense -- both in covering Gordon, and pressuring Tom Brady.
Adoree' Jackson did a remarkable job of blanketing Gordon when the wideout was targeted, shielding him from getting a good shot at a couple of would-be catches, and coming over the shoulder of Gordon for a pass break-up early in the fourth on Gordon's 12th and final target. And more importantly, Tennessee's pass rush harassed Brady all afternoon, throwing him out of rhythm and forcing a healthy amount of passes that fell well short of their intended targets. Three of Gordon's targets were such throws.
"It's tough for me to give a good perspective because I'm not looking back and seeing the defensive line, but I think that's partially due to the reason, due to the fact that I felt a little rush out there," Gordon said.