Numbers simply do not do enough to measure the impact and achievement of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon the past month.
Which is significant because the numbers for Gordon are off the charts.
In the past four games, he has 36 receptions for 774 yards and five touchdowns. He also has averaged 21.5 yards per catch.
This is a season’s work for some receivers.
Gordon did it in four games.
And he’s doing it in eye-popping ways.
To put in perspective what he achieved, consider that Aqib Talib has the reputation as one of the league’s more physical corners. He beats people up, something New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick loves, and Talib uses his size and strength to run receivers off routes and disrupt the timing of plays. Denver’s Demaryius Thomas managed just four receptions and 41 yards against Talib.
But Talib didn't have a chance against Gordon. The numbers from ESPN Stats & Information show that Gordon had the best overall receiving day against the Patriots this season. His 151 yards were the most given up by New England this season.
His 21.6 yards-per-catch average was also the best by anyone who had at least three catches against the Patriots. (For perspective, consider that the guy ahead of Gordon with 24.5 yards is the Browns' Gary Barnidge, who had a 40-yard touchdown catch thanks to the fact, in part, that Talib was penalized for dragging Gordon to the ground after Gordon ran right through him.)
Gordon’s 90 yards after the catch are also the most New England gave up.
As was his 80-yard touchdown pass.
Gordon ran 40 routes, was targeted nine times and caught seven for 151 yards and a touchdown.
He didn't drop a single pass, accounted for four first downs (including a vital one on third-and-17 on the Browns' last touchdown drive).
On the flip side, Talib did not have a single pass breakup.
The point isn't to disparage Talib, whom the Browns would love to have. The point is that Gordon is playing so well that he makes one of the league’s most physical corners struggle.
Gordon’s touchdown illustrates it. The Browns had noticed that the Patriots were stacking the box and bringing extra pressure, so they called a slant to go against that defense. New England helped by going cover zero, which means taking both safeties out of pass protection.
Gordon got a clean break at the line -- something that isn't easy to do against Talib. He got a clean break on the slant, but when he caught Jason Campbell’s perfectly thrown ball, Talib was behind Gordon with the angle to tackle him.
At that point it’s like Gordon is Chuck Yeager in "The Right Stuff," flicking the switch to Mach 1 -- he just jets past guys. He raced away from Talib when Talib had the angle. Against Jacksonville, he leaped for a pass, landed, turned and ran away from two defenders. Against New England, he went Mach 2 to run away from Talib.
Since the day Gordon was drafted there has been discussion about his immense potential.
Unrealized potential, though, gets coaches fired.
Gordon has emerged this season in a way beyond even his biggest supporters envisioned. He is a player with immense talent and a rare combination of skills. If he stays on the right path and remains dedicated in the right ways there’s no telling the numbers he can produce. It’s not overstating it to say these past four games have shown the emergence of a superstar.
And ... he’s 22.