Patriots

Josh McDaniels: Patriots sat Josh Gordon on final play to 'put a fresh guy in'

Josh McDaniels: Patriots sat Josh Gordon on final play to 'put a fresh guy in'

We'd kicked around the Patriots' loss in Pittsburgh for a good 40 hours or so before we understood why Josh Gordon wasn't on the field for the final play. 

The team's leading receiver and one of its best athletes -- his jump-ball ability was thought of highly enough by the coaching staff that he was on the Patriots Hail Mary defense in Week 7 in Chicago -- Gordon jogged off the field during a Steelers timeout just before Tom Brady's final heave into the end zone at Heinz Field. 

After the game, Bill Belichick said the reason Gordon wasn't out there was because the Patriots had opted for Cordarrelle Patterson instead. 

But why? Gordon had played in 58 snaps to that point in the game. Patterson had played in four. 

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It would make sense to have Patterson on the field in that spot due to his size and strength. He's a fine candidate to make an acrobatic catch in a desperate situation. But so is Gordon, making the one-for-one swap a curious one. 

Gordon wasn't made available to reporters after the game, but Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels indicated that Gordon's removal from the game was due to fatigue. 

"We had just kind of run quite a few plays in a row," McDaniels said. "I know there was a timeout there before that. Both of those guys have worked at that spot and in that type of a situation based on what we were doing. We just made the choice to go with CP at that point.

"No ulterior motive on that at all. Just put a fresh guy in to go ahead and do something on the last play to see if we could get into the end zone. It is what it is."

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Gordon was on the field for the two previous plays in the game, lobs to Rob Gronkowski in the end zone on both second- and third-and-15 from the Steelers 21-yard line. 

The two targets Gordon saw in the game were the fewest he's seen since his first game with the Patriots back in Week 4. After he dropped a third-down throw early in the third quarter, Brady didn't throw his way again.

Part of that was due to the Steelers defense. We counted 13 snaps of the 36 snaps in which Gordon ran routes -- against both man and zone coverage -- that there were multiple defenders either in his area or paying attention to him. It wasn't the same level of attention paid to Gronkowski (20 of 33 routes where the Steelers had a defender over the top of him, two defenders in his area, or outright doubled him), but it was significant. 

Part of Gordon's lack of production, though, seemed to be Brady's desire to look elsewhere with the football -- particularly late. Gordon was was checked by one defender seven times on the final drive and wasn't targeted.

For a player who'd just been praised by Brady for spending extra time on his craft -- a player who said there was a "huge difference" in his conditioning level from when he first arrived to the Patriots -- Sunday was a step back. 

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Patriots QB Tom Brady reveals what impresses him most about Bill Belichick

Patriots QB Tom Brady reveals what impresses him most about Bill Belichick

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is getting very close to 300 career wins in the regular season and playoffs combined.

Belichick enters his team's Week 7 game against the New York Jets on Monday night with 267 regular season wins and 31 playoff victories in his head coaching career, giving him 298 total. The only head coaches in NFL history with 300 or more career wins are Don Shula and George Halas. 

Belichick has 231 wins in his 20-plus seasons leading the Patriots, and most of them have come with Tom Brady at quarterback. These two also have won more Super Bowl titles (six) than any other QB-coach combo in league history.

What impresses Brady the most when it comes to his coach?

"I think just his consistency, dependability," Brady explained to reporters Saturday. "I think all of those things we talk about in a great player, it’s the same thing in a great coach. I think his dependability, his consistency, what he brings to work every day and his commitment to our team – I don’t think you can ask for anything more than that as a player. He’s got great competitive stamina, and in my view, he’s the greatest coach of all time. So, it’s a privilege to play for him, and just to see him get all of these wins. He certainly deserves it."

What does Brady mean by "competitive stamina"?

"Well, I think you’ve got to bring it every day," Brady said. "I think this is kind of the time in the year, after six weeks, where people start getting a little fatigued. You get a little tired. You guys probably feel that, too. You start getting a little bit tired, and you take a little shortcut and you don’t quite work as long.

"That’s the same for the players. You get a little tired during the week, so you study a little less, you don’t watch as much film, or you don’t go as hard in practice. I think if you do that, you shortcut yourself, and then you shortcut the team. And I think this team has always done a good job pushing through those moments, those opportunities, and you just keep grinding – I think that’s a word we use around here a lot – and you try to do the best you can do every day."

If the Patriots take care of business and beat the Jets on the road Monday night, Belichick will able to secure win No. 300 at home in Week 8 against the Cleveland Browns -- the franchise that gave him his first head coaching job in 1991.

Tom E. Curran's Patriots vs. Jets preview>>>

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Patriots RB Rex Burkead to miss Week 7 game vs. Jets with foot injury

Patriots RB Rex Burkead to miss Week 7 game vs. Jets with foot injury

The list of New England Patriots players who won't take part in Monday night's Week 7 road game against the rival New York Jets is growing.

The Patriots announced Sunday that running back Rex Burkhead has been downgraded to out. Burkhead originally was listed as questionable to play versus the Jets because of a foot injury. He has not played since Week 4.

Burkhead's status leaves the Patriots with Sony Michel, James White, Brandon Bolden and rookie Damien Harris available at running back for Week 7. Harris has been active for only one game this season.

Here's the list of Patriots players already ruled out for "Monday Night Football."

Rex Burkhead, RB, Foot
Josh Gordon, WR, Ankle/Knee
Ryan Izzo, TE, Concussion
Matt LaCosse, TE, Knee
Michael Bennett, DE, Suspended By Team

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