CLEVELAND: Josh Gordon had just accomplished something no NFL wide receiver had. Not Rice or Irvin, not Swann or Stallworth or Biletnikoff.
The 22-year-old in his second year with the Browns should have been enjoying the heady feeling of that achievement, euphoric over unprecedented back-to-back 200-yard games that could help vault him into the league’s elite.
Now he can trade stories with the Lions’ Calvin Johnson since “Megatron” achieved the feat unofficially, his 200-yard performances coming in the final game of the 2011 regular season and in a wild-card playoff game.
Instead Gordon dressed quietly at his locker, exchanging no words with Greg Little or Davone Bess in the adjoining stalls. Gordon’s tone was subdued. After the Browns fell 32-28 to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium, every sentence was tinged with disappointment.
Because Gordon thought he could save them.
He took a blow to the head — to the chin actually — early in the third quarter that sent him to the locker room for concussion tests. He returned 13 snaps later, rushing onto the field even though the personnel package for the next play was already set.
“He got a good hit on me, that’s all, got me in the chin,” Gordon said of the shot he took from Jaguars safety Winston Guy. “I felt fine, though, nothing wrong with me. I wasn’t concussed. Tried to come back out there and win the game.”
Gordon thought he had done that with 3:55 remaining when he caught a 95-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Weeden, the third-longest offensive play in Browns history. He outraced cornerback Dwayne Gratz and safety Jonathan Cyprien to the end zone, well aware they were on his heels.
“I wasn’t for sure a big guy like me could escape ’em, but I pulled it off,” said Gordon, who is 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds.
When his day was done, Gordon had set a franchise record with 261 receiving yards on 10 catches, two for scores. That came on the heels of a 237-yard performance last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Elias Sports Bureau confirmed that had never been done in the league, along with his totals of 498 yards in the past two games and 623 in the past three.
Even the Jaguars marveled that the Browns considered getting rid of Gordon right up until the Oct. 29 trade deadline because he is one strike away from a year’s suspension under the league’s substance abuse policy.
“It’s amazing they were thinking about trading him,” Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin said.
“He’s big, strong and he can run,” Jacksonville linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “There aren’t too many guys like him that have his skill set and play like him. We all have the utmost respect for him and what he did today. He’s an unbelievable receiver.”
But Gordon couldn’t appreciate his performance because of the outcome.
“For us it’s all about winning, that’s what we came here to do, that’s what we expect to do every Sunday,” he said. “As a group collectively we couldn’t get it done, so that’s what matters most to me.
“It’s definitely frustrating. I’m a young player and I definitely think I’m getting dealt a rough hand early into this league. How I deal with it is going to make me a better player later on.”
Gordon isn’t alone in those thoughts. The Browns’ young core is becoming increasingly frustrated. Losing six of the past seven games threatens to cripple the youngsters’ psyches even as they turn in great individual performances.
At the other end of the locker room, cornerback Joe Haden, having a Pro Bowl-caliber year with four interceptions — one against the Jaguars — had tears in his eyes and dropped several profanities in his brief postgame remarks. He gave up the game-winning touchdown pass to Cecil Shorts III with 40 seconds remaining.
Two weeks ago at Cincinnati, Haden recorded two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, and held Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green to a career-low 7 yards, yet the Browns were blown out 41-20.
Center Alex Mack, a stalwart seemingly in line for a new contract after the season, snapped a ball over Weeden’s head against the Jaguars that resulted in a safety.
“I’m going to blame myself from here to kingdom come,” Mack said.
After a 27-11 loss to the Steelers on Nov. 24, strong safety T.J. Ward, who has raised his level of play in his contract year, cited the offense’s turnovers as the reason the Browns were losing.
Running back Chris Ogbonnaya, a friend of Gordon’s because they are both from Houston, tries to encourage Gordon even as the Browns (4-8) continue to slide.
“I tell him just to keep playing, things are going to swing our way eventually,” Ogbonnaya said.
But it’s hard to believe that will happen right now, even as defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson calls this the most talented team he’s played on since 2007.
Haden, Ward and Gordon have never won more than five games in a season. They need victories for reinforcement, not individual records that briefly boost their confidence. To them it might feel like the scars will never heal.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.