CARSON, Ca. -- Browns receiver Josh Gordon lived up to his Flash nickname and his new flash logo in his first game back in 1,077 days.
Suspended for 54 of the last 59 games, Gordon caught the first pass of Sunday's 19-10 loss to the Chargers, a 9-yarder on slant out of the slot from DeShone Kizer.
He also made the last catch of the game for the Browns, a 39-yarder just before the two-minute warning, but two plays later Kizer threw his league-leading 15th interception of the season to end the threat.
Still, Gordon provided the Browns with some hope for getting over the hump in the final four games and avoiding an 0-16 record. He caught four of his 11 targets for 85 yards, and would've had much better numbers of Kizer hadn't overthrown him a few times, including once at the 2 by 3 yards in the second quarter.
"He made some plays,'' said Jackson. "It was his first game back and it looked like he belonged. He has some rust that he needs to knock off, but I thought he competed."
Jackson acknowledged that Kizer sometimes threw the ball to Gordon when he was tightly covered by 2016 Pro Bowl cornerback Casey Hayward, who dropped an interception once and broke up a pass in the end zone to Gordon with 5:04 left.
"Sometimes maybe the ball shouldn't go there,'' said Jackson. "I don't think DeShone was forcing the ball there. I think he's seeing some of the right things, but sometimes guys are late in that way. Then, just go the other way. We'll grow from that. We'll be another week better, more practice and we'll go from there."
Jackson acknowledged that the timing between Kizer and Gordon will get better as time goes on. With him on the field, Corey Coleman caught none of his four targets, but two were throwaways.
"This is just a start for Josh,'' said Jackson, who called the pass to Gordon on the first play to get things rolling. "It's practice time, it's time on task, time with the quarterbacks, time within the system and keep going from there."
Gordon, who's bared his soul recently in some national interviews, admitted it felt natural to be out on the field again.
"I feel free when I'm out there,'' he said. "My business is out there, people know what I'm about and that's a great feeling.''
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Kizer, who was visibly shaken after his 11th loss of the season, overthrew Gordon at times and misplaced other times. Cornerback Trevor Williams also broke up a deep sideline pass in the third quarter.
"When you have a guy as big and fast as (Gordon), you want to try and attack that matchup if they don't have a safety over the top of him,'' said Kizer. "With time, I will understand the way he wants the ball. The opportunities were that if he was separating from a corner and when I need to throw back shoulder. Today was a good test of understanding how many times to get it to him. Once again putting the ball into the position where he can make a play."
As usual, Kizer shouldered the blame for the misses despite Gordon playing for the first time in 44 straight outings.
"I want to develop our relationship and chemistry to make sure that he makes more plays than he made today,'' he said. "Completing balls in this league is very hard. It takes precision, it takes time. It takes effort. In order to get to that you need to spend time with them. It's on me to put the ball in the right position for him to make a play.''
Jackson acknowledged that Kizer will have to adjust to Gordon's speed.
"You kind of measure it and then you don't know if he's running really fast or super fast because he does have a couple of different speeds there,'' said Jackson. "You have to feel comfortable with that."
Gordon did get behind Hayward in the second quarter for a 28-yard strike down the left side. It led to a 28-yard David Njoku TD catch that put the Browns up 7-6 with 1:55 left in the half.
"Just a fade,'' said Gordon. "That's all it was. Just called a fade. He was in press, worked to release, fought through the press and really executed the fade. He threw it right on point and I had to go up and make a play inbounds and that's exactly what we did and it worked.''
Like Kizer, Gordon lamented the missed opportunities more than the catches.
"I just feel as though there are things we left on the table,'' he said. "You definitely want to get all of those.''
But Gordon, who admitted he was gassed in the fourth quarter, didn't look like he missed a beat or hadn't played since Dec. 21, 2014. He did the Chief Slam with Njoku after his TD in the end zone, caught up with former Browns receiver Travis Benjamin before the game and looked exactly like the naturally gifted receiver he is.
"It was fun,'' he said. "It was exciting to be out there and blessed to have the opportunity to get back to work.''
His mom, siblings and other family members came out for his long-awaited return.
"Real exciting to do it in front of family and some fans,'' he said.
But his real "I'm back'' moment came at the Browns facility on a couple of weeks ago after he was reinstated.
"I got my mind right back then, I just made sure I was (mentally) ready for the game,'' he said.
Gordon's heart went out to Hayward, whose brother was killed in an auto accident on Monday. He flew to Macon, Ga., for the funeral, and the Chargers flew him back to LA on Friday night for the game.
"I heard about it,'' said Gordon. "It's huge for him to persevere and come back out here and play. I commend him on that. That takes a lot of guts, a lot of heart and I respect him just for coming out.''
Gordon earned the respect of his new teammates for his seamless transition back to the NFL.
"JG's ability, no one has ever questioned,'' said defensive back Jason McCourty. "He's still a young player. He's still going to get better, probably. You saw, he was running as fast as probably when he left and he has all the ability in the world, so just look forward to him to get better each and every week.''...Read more