By Nate Ulrich
and Marla Ridenour
Beacon Journal sports writers
KANSAS CITY, Mo.: With the NFL trade deadline looming at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon blocked out distractions caused by speculation that he could be dealt and bounced back from his worst performance of the season.
A week after tallying a season-low two catches for 21 yards in a loss to the Green Bay Packers, Gordon registered five catches for a game-high 132 yards and a touchdown in a 23-17 defeat Sunday against the host Kansas City Chiefs. Gordon has three 100-yard receiving games this season, the most by a Browns player since Braylon Edwards had three in 2008.
Gordon knows he cannot control whether the Browns (3-5) trade him, but he made a final plea to stay with the deadline on the horizon. The NFL suspended him two games to start this season for violating its substance-abuse policy, and it’s his understanding another slip would result in a season-long ban. With that hanging over Gordon’s head, reports about the Browns receiving offers for him began surfacing Sept. 22.
“I do want to stay in Cleveland,” said Gordon, whom the previous regime picked in the second round of last year’s supplemental draft. “Cleveland is my first home, the team I got drafted to. It’s a great place to be. I love the fans in Cleveland and everything about it, but business is business.”
Gordon, 22, reiterated he’s tired of all the rumors.
“When [the trade deadline is] over, it’s over,” Gordon said. “However it goes, it’s beyond me, it’s above me. I will be excited either way. Hopefully [I’ll] get some new questions.”
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Gordon beat cornerback Sean Smith’s coverage with a post-corner route and caught a 39-yard, flea-flicker touchdown pass from quarterback Jason Campbell with 2:44 left in the second quarter, trimming the Browns’ deficit to 13-7. Campbell handed off to Willis McGahee, and the running back pitched the ball back to Campbell before he launched it to Gordon, whose eight career touchdowns have come from 20-plus yards.
“I just think Jason has faith in me,” Gordon said. “I’ve got faith in him. I’m going to go out there and try my hardest to get open off a defender. He looked my way a few times and we made a play.
“I feel like I’m where I want to be. I’m not saying I’m playing at a superb level. I still don’t feel I’ve reached my full potential, and I’m always going to feel like that until I’m done playing the game.”
One play Gordon would like another crack at unfolded during the Browns’ first series. Campbell threw a deep pass to Gordon on a fly route, but Gordon slowed down because he said he couldn’t find the ball. The incompletion resulted in the Browns’ first of three consecutive three-and-outs.
“I did not see the ball,” Gordon said. “I was looking back in the wrong area. He threw it perfectly.
“It’s definitely frustrating going three-and-out. But sometimes you need that slap in the face to get yourself a reality check and kick it into high gear before you get blown off the field and get embarrassed.”
Gordon stepped up as the game went on and showed why so many fans hope the Browns don’t trade him. Inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson has the same hope.
“Absolutely,” Jackson said. “The team that we have now — we can with this team.”
Tight end Jordan Cameron is the latest Browns player to have his name mentioned in trade speculation. Jason La Canfora of CBS reported Sunday that some who have been in contact with the Browns believe the team would entertain offers for Cameron as well as Gordon. The Browns would need a “steep haul” of picks and/or players to deal Cameron or Gordon, according to the report.
Cameron, a fourth-round draft pick in 2011, did not speak to reporters Sunday. He recorded four receptions for 81 yards and leads the team this season with 49 catches, 596 receiving yards and six touchdowns. His 49 receptions are tied for the second most by a Browns player in the first eight games of a season.
Other Browns players who have been named in trade rumblings include wide receiver Greg Little and right offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz.
Despite wide receiver Davone Bess’ three dropped passes and fumbled punt with 7:02 left in the fourth quarter, the team has his back.
“I still have all the confidence in the world in him,” Campbell said. “He’s a tremendous player and asset to our team. We don’t get down on someone because of one bad game.
He’s a guy that’s going to bounce back. I felt for him because I know how hard he works and how good he is. He’s a guy that you just put your arm around him and say, ‘Hey brother, I’m here to pick you up,’ and you move on to the next one.”
Bess said he had a “bad game” and didn’t blame anyone but himself.
“Davone is everything you could ask for in a pro,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “Those are plays that he wishes he could have back, and nobody feels worse than Davone.”
Six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas was called for three of the Browns’ nine penalties, twice flagged for holding and once for a false start.
His holding penalty with 10:27 remaining was one of the biggest plays of the game. On first down at the Chiefs’ 36, McGahee picked up 9 yards to the 27, but the flag on Thomas pushed the Browns back. They eventually were forced to punt on fourth-and-23.
“They do a lot of things really well. They have five Pro Bowlers on their defense,” Thomas said. “In any scheme that is going to be really good, especially when you talk about two guys on the edge that are Pro Bowl pass rushers. They have good, physical guys in the middle, a great scheme that confuses people and you add in crowd noise, which makes it difficult to communicate when you are moving protections and blocking schemes.”
Thomas spent much of the day trying to block Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali, who had nine of their league-leading 35 sacks coming in. The Chiefs sacked Campbell only once as Justin Houston set a career-high with his 11th.
Asked about what looked like a quiet day, Hali said, “My day was not quiet. As far as sacks go, I didn’t get to the quarterback. Joe is a good player — you could say great player — it’s tough to beat him one-on-one. At times I felt like I won some of the battles. The ball was coming out fast. But no excuses, the guy is a good player and that helps me compete.”
Campbell praised his protection, saying, “I give all the credit to the offensive line, those guys played outstanding today. The way our guys came here today and fought their butts off, they gave me great time to throw the ball. We were talking to each other and making sure we were all on the same page inside the huddle. Those five guys in front of me today did an outstanding job. I take my hat off to them.”
Trailing 20-17, Chudzinski used his second timeout of the second half with 4:10 remaining and his last at the 3:57 mark as the Chiefs prepared to punt. It seemed a curious decision, especially when the Browns started their next possession at their 16.
“I thought that gave us the best chance to get the ball back with plenty of time,” Chudzinski said. “If need be, we could get two possessions out of it if we had to. Otherwise you’re letting 40 seconds burn off the clock, and you’re down to the two-minute mark.
“With around four minutes left, it gives us more options in what we can do, between making some personnel moves to the kind of plays you’re running and knowing that if we had to, potentially we would get the ball back late.”
Longhorn on loose
The Browns trailed by three with 11:48 remaining and took over at their 27 when Chiefs’ linebacker Derrick Johnson sent a message on first down. He drilled Browns running back Chris Ogbonnaya after he caught a pass over the middle, knocking the ball loose.
It was a clash of former University of Texas Longhorns. Johnson was the Chiefs’ first-round pick in 2005. Ogbonnaya played in Austin from 2005-08.
“Chris Ogbonnaya is a Texas guy, so I had to give him a little taste of what we do over here at the Chiefs,” Johnson said.
Johnson gave plenty of tastes. He finished with 12 solo tackles, two for losses, a quarterback hurry and a pass defensed.
Wide receiver Travis Benjamin suffered a sprained right knee with 2:20 left in the third quarter while returning a punt. Chiefs cornerback Ron Parker tripped up Benjamin during the play. Benjamin did not return to the game. … Outside linebacker Quentin Groves (ankle), center Patrick Lewis, offensive tackle Martin Wallace, guard Garrett Gilkey, tight end Keavon Milton and defensive end Billy Winn (quadriceps) were the Browns’ inactives. … Two Chiefs starters, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (groin) and free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle), played Sunday despite entering the weekend listed as questionable. … Billy Cundiff connected on a 44-yard field goal. He is 12-of-14 this season. His counterpart, Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop, made field goals of 42, 35 and 40 yards but missed a 52-yard attempt wide left with 3:36 left in the second quarter. The Browns scored their first touchdown during the next series. … The Browns tied a season-high with six sacks to increase their total to 26 this season. Inside linebackers Craig Robertson and D’Qwell Jackson, strong safety T.J. Ward, nose tackle Phil Taylor and outside linebackers Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo each tallied a sack. … Running back Fozzy Whittaker had two receptions for 22 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown, the first of his career.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.