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Hue Jackson: Personnel grouping got Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon start against Pittsburgh

Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson said the personnel grouping got wide receiver Josh Gordon into the starting lineup against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday.
Credit: Scott Galvin
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (12) makes a catch during warmups before the game at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.

CLEVELAND -- Oops.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was not supposed to start the 2018 regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium, but low and behold, he was on the field for the first play of the game between the AFC North Division rivals.

“The personnel group got him out there,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “The personnel group got him out there in the first play. I saw it just like you did. Not what I wanted, but we will get through that, too.”

Credit: Ken Blaze
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (12) catches a touchdown as Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton (20) defends during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Gordon had only three passes thrown his way against the Steelers, but made the most of his only reception.

Gordon hauled in a 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyrod Taylor that allowed the Browns to draw even with the Steelers and force overtime, where the game ended in a 21-21 tie, a first in the 68-year history of the rivalry.

“We have been practicing fade balls all week, the offseason and training camp,” Gordon said.

“It was called multiple times throughout the game. We had enough time in the pocket and he (Taylor) was able to get it up in the right spot. I felt my feet get down. I just was not sure if I was in the end zone or at the one-yard line.”

On first-and-10 from the Pittsburgh 17-yard line, Taylor lofted a pass down the right sideline for Gordon, who outjumped a defender in coverage and hauled in the catch. On his way to the ground, Gordon got both of his feet down in bounds and maintained possession throughout the play for the touchdown.

Kicker Zane Gonzalez converted the ensuing extra point, which drew the Browns even with the Steelers, 21-21, with 1:58 to play in regulation.

Gordon was able to show off his athleticism and playmaking abilities despite missing more than three weeks of training camp while tending to personal matters, as well as the entire preseason because of those issues and a hamstring injury that happened upon his return to the organization.

“He is healthier and he is through the hamstring,” Jackson said. “There is no question about that.”

Credit: Ken Blaze
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (12) celebrates with quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) and defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence (99) after catching a touchdown during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Gordon’s touchdown capped off a string of 14 straight points from the Browns that drew them even with the Steelers, and the veteran pass catcher believes the fourth-quarter effort will provide plenty of motivation for the players as they begin preparations for next Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints, which will be played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“It shows we are a resilient team,” Gordon said. “If we didn’t know it already, we know it now. Against one of the best teams in the league -- best team in this division -- if we can stand toe-to-toe with them, we can stand toe-to-toe with anybody.

“There were a lot of misses, and that’s the unfortunate part. That’s what we have to get back to work on Monday, practice on Wednesday and make sure we keep this thing rolling and build on those misses that we had.”

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