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Important Night For Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas And Other Leftover Patriots Thoughts

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Normally after games, even in the preseason, it's time for endless analysis, breakdowns, praise, critiques, and everything else that can be gleaned from 60 minutes of football. But the fourth preseason game ... the fourth preseason game is a little different.

The "stars" of the fourth preseason game are often guys who end up getting cut in the 36 hours that follow the final whistle, so it's not necessarily worth going through the standard fare of Ups and Downs, or Studs and Duds, or Risers and Fallers, or any other way we like to simplify these here sporting contests.

Still, there's plenty to discuss and break down now that the Patriots' preseason is officially over. So let's do it.

(The Patriots lost, by the way. It was 31-29. Game-winning touchdown on the final play. That's not really pertinent information though.)

--Demaryius Thomas seemed to loosen up as the game went on. When he made his first catch and looked like an octogenarian while trying to cut and put a juke on a defensive back, his chances of making the squad didn't look good. He later picked up a personal foul after an interception, and he showed that he had absolutely no idea how to take a handoff when he fumbled a ball in the backfield. It looked like it might be an ugly night for the veteran.

Then he showed up by making a catch on a 35-yard back-shoulder throw from Jarrett Stidham while up against tight coverage, displaying the type of professional ball skills that made him a four-time Pro Bowler.

He couldn't catch the two-point conversion after that touchdown, but he made up for it by breaking free in the end zone on the Patriots' next possession and catching his second touchdown of the night. He also ran a solid comeback route and hung on while getting hit on a 20-yard gain.

All told, seven catches on eight targets, 87 yards, two touchdowns.

Of course, it must be noted that Thomas was not going against NFL starters. Life will be more difficult for a receiver in the regular season. But for a 31-year-old coming off a torn Achilles that was suffered just eight months ago, this looked like it might have been a fairly important night for Thomas. Even if the Patriots end up cutting him loose, he looked like he still has an NFL skill-set to offer teams this season.

--Keeping it with wide receivers, it was likewise an important night for Josh Gordon. It's hard to even fathom the whirlwind he's endured over the past few weeks, going from having no idea about his playing status, to suddenly being on the Patriots late in the summer. He's had to get on track quickly.

The numbers -- two receptions for 30 yards -- hardly mattered. The more important part was getting in the huddle, running routes against a live defense, taking hits, and getting out of the game healthy. It appears as though all boxes were checked for Gordon.

RELATED: Edelman Apparently Reaggravates Thumb Injury

--No N'Keal Harry, though. His two outstanding catches in Detroit will serve as his entire preseason experience. The rookie will have to do some learning on the fly in order to have an impactful rookie season.

--Tom Brady looked good in this one. Didn't play ... but looked good.

--I didn't catch this one early on ...

... but I love it as well.

Johnson is the German fellow who's on the team as part of the NFL's International Player Pathway Program. He's a fullback, and he's absolutely destroyed an opponent this summer. With that kind of thumb in his arsenal, why not let him go out there and make some people sore?

--Joejuan Williams has, in my opinion, looked pretty good this summer. On Thursday night, the Patriots decided to use him at safety, and the 6-foot-3 rookie responded well.

Joejuan Williams
Joejuan Williams (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

It's too early to say it for sure ... but ... the early results are promising for Williams being capable of potentially breaking The Curse Of Defensive Backs Picked In The Second Round By Bill Belichick. Perhaps you're not familiar with this curse, because I just made it up.

But look at the list.

Duke Dawson (Still TBD)
Cyrus Jones
Jordan Richards
Tavon Wilson
Ras-I Dowling
Patrick Chung (an exception)
Darius Butler
Terrence Wheatley

Holy mama. That's bad.

The bar is clearly pretty low for Williams to clear. Looks like a player though.

--I don't know if Keion Crossen is going to make the team, but he was quite literally everywhere on Thursday night. A fast, fearless second-year cornerback will assuredly find work in the NFL, even if it's not in Foxboro. Wouldn't be surprised to see Belichick keep him, either.

--I suppose it would still be a long shot for Gunner Olszewski to make the roster, but it would have been legitimately impossible for the rookie converted defensive back out of D-II Bemidji State to do anything more this summer. That included a spin-o-rama flip against the Giants that would have even impressed Aly Raisman, just the latest full-speed display from Olszewski this summer. He also caught two passes for 35 yards in the same drive, showing he had some comfort as a receiver.

What I'm trying to say is it's time to build the Gunner statue outside Gillette. It's just time.

--Gunner was also unfairly profiled because of his violent name when the officiating crew threw a flag, met for a half-hour, then decided to enforce a blind-side block penalty on him for ... getting absolutely crushed by a Giants linebacker?

Best as anyone could tell, the flag was for the second block delivered by Gunner. The same block where he was the nail and not the hammer, and the same block where B.J. Goodson saw Olszewski from five yards away and then delivered a painful hit himself on the Patriots receiver.

It's preseason game No. 4, so obviously nobody cares about how the 15-yard penalty affected the drive. It's just ... if that's what constitutes a blind side block ... and if plays like that one, and like the one from the Texans-Lions game end up getting enforced regularly ... then ... folks, we're going to have some problems when the real games begin next weekend.

And Julian Edelman, Tom Brady, and Bill Belichick are decidedly not for it.

--Seriously, though. Gunner.

Guy was the first one on the practice field every day this spring. Played offense, defense and special teams on Thursday night. Gotta keep the Gunner. Can't cut the Gunner. Can't do it.


Gunner Olszewski
Gunner Olszewski (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

--Gunner again.

Gunner Olszewski
Gunner Olszewski (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

--It says a lot about the way Josh McDaniels and Belichick feel about Jarrett Stidham that they trusted him to throw roughly 11,000 passes in this game. They were likely testing his capacity for the depths of the playbook, and though this was hardly the same offense Tom Brady runs, it was still a lot more complex than what a rookie QB with no experience might be given in such a situation. Normally, if there was any doubt about the rookie's ability to steer the massive steamship, we'd see a million handoffs to some poor soul who has no chance of making the roster.

Instead, we saw Stidham run a pass-heavy offense. He wasn't perfect, obviously, but he looked fine. I don't think the team needs Brian Hoyer to stick around.

--Bill Belichick was still shouting at the referee to ensure that a penalty was enforced properly in the final minutes of a nine-hour long fourth preseason game. Just in case you were wondering if the 67-year-old is letting up his attention in any way this season.

--Another Patriots game, another failed challenge for pass interference for the opposing coach. Pat Shurmur's misfire cost us all about five precious minutes of life, and it was all for naught. I believe that made it a clean 0-for-5 when opponents have thrown the red flag for PI this summer. Belichick has happily just stood there on the sideline and taken this all in, rather than subject the world to experimenting in real time.

Anyways, I have an addendum to this new rule proposal: If a coach throws a challenge because he wants pass interference, but a replay review does not give him that pass interference, then that coach must serve a 72-hour sentence in a federal penitentiary.

Harsh? No, not really. You just better be sure before you chuck that red flag and waste all of our precious time.

--Jake Bailey's punts are the truth. And he figured out how to hold for Stephen Gostkowski. Huzzah.

--As a general rule, I never like to amplify the dumbest of dumb takes. You know the ones. From the TV debate show guys. Just real brainless stuff, where even though everyone understands the source, people get all riled up anyway. It creates a reaction and attention, which is the whole point. I try to avoid that.

But -- BUT! -- when those takes are truly hilarious ... I have no choice but to share them.

Just incredible. I've never seen a man perform a violent suplex on his own brain. And doing it in a tweet no less?Amazing.

He ended up doubling down ...

"Unheard of." NOBODY'S EVER DONE IT BEFORE!!! (Multiple guys have done it this summer.)

That's some solid taking. Can't hate it. Respect to Skip.

--Preseason's over. Thank goodness. Real football starts soon.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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