NFL: Minnesota Vikings at New England Patriots

New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon scores a touchdown during the third quarter Minnesota Vikings at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

JOSH GORDON seems to have found a home in Foxborough, Mass.

We say “seems” because he’s, you know, Josh Gordon.

Down deep, anyone who has followed the career of this very special athlete knows the other shoe often drops. He gets in trouble smoking pot and things go down the toilet.

But you get a different feeling now.

He’s a Patriot. He’s playing for Bill Belichick. He’s catching passes from Tom Brady. The playoffs await. A Super Bowl may well follow.

He’s happy.

Sunday, he was invisible for the first half but then, as one of nine receivers Brady found in the 24-10 win over the Vikings, he broke the game open with a pair of 24-yard catches. On the first one, he broke a tackle for yards after the catch; on the second, he got wide open in a zone as the injury-ravaged Vikes tried to cobble together a pass defense.

Josh Gordon has always been a difference maker — especially when he’s ON the field.

It’s been nine games. The Patriots have won eight of them. Coincidence?

Asked after the game if he truly feels part of this team, Gordon said, “Yeah, I think so. It felt like home a long time ago. The atmosphere is very welcoming.

“It took me a little bit to get acclimated to the area. Other than that, it’s been pretty smooth so far, and that’s due in part to the facility, the organization, just everybody helping me along the way.”

In his short stay with the Pats, Gordon has already been involved in Brady history — twice.

He caught the 500th touchdown pass of Brady’s career, and Sunday caught the 579th, allowing Brady to tie Peyton Manning for the all-time TD pass lead, counting postseason.

He was surprised by all that history stuff, but it’s clear he’s not at all surprised about playing with No. 12.

“I did not know that stat line, but it must be fate, I guess. I won’t say coincidence, but it’s great to be on the receiving end of it,” he said. “(I am) extremely humbled to come out here every Sunday and get a chance to play, let alone with Tom Brady, the greatest to ever do it. So, to be a part of history with him? I can’t really even put the words to describe what that means to me. But, it’s just great to have the opportunity.”

And you get the feeling there’s more — a lot more — to come.

Multi victories

The Patriots won Week 13 (they improved to 9-3) even before the week began, when the Kareem Hunt story came down, thus making K.C. at least a bit less formidable down the road. The Chiefs can still score, but Hunt is a special player.

Then, Sunday night, the Steelers lost, further throwing the whole AFC playoff picture into more of a scramble.

The Patriots, who are never thrilled by a visit to Miami, are down there this week. Then, it’s on to Pittsburgh before home games against the Bills and Jets. Those four teams are a combined 20-27-1.

The Pats are 9-3. The Chiefs are 10-2 and still have to host suddenly hot Baltimore and the 9-3 Chargers before visiting 7-5 Seattle and hosting 2-10 Oakland. Their next three opponents are an combined 23-13.

Remember, a tie with K.C. means the Patriots own home field through the playoffs because of the tiebreaker.

The Texans have won nine in a row after an 0-3 start. The Patriots own the tiebreaker against them as well.

By the way, the Steelers had been 220-0-2 when leading a home game by at least 14 points – 174-0-1 with at least a 16-point lead. It was their largest blown lead since 1981, according to 1981.

Feisty Bill

We know Belichick as a man of not that many words. But Sunday, the coach got into it with Minnesota’s Adam Thielen.

They screamed back and forth at each other and Belichick could be seen yelling, “Shut the bleep up” at the player. Guess it was actually twice.

“I’ve been on the other end of that (Belichick yelling) a few times in my career,” Brady said on WEEI Monday. “Pretty funny. … It’s competitive out there. It’s very feisty and everyone’s emotions are on their sleeves. You say something and there is just an emotional reaction. That was pretty funny.”

After the game, Belichick, asked if it was just two competitors boiling over, said, “Yeah, pretty much.” That’s one word less than “shut the bleep up.”

Thielen, who thought Patrick Chung was faking an injury to give his coach time to consider challenging, said, “Obviously I’ve gotta keep my cool. You know, I’ve got a lot of respect for him and what he’s done. I just thought it was interesting timing for a guy to go down, when it was a close play that could have been reviewed. So for me, I just lost my emotions.

“I just thought the play was cheap. I wasn’t directing it toward him. I just thought the play was cheap. But like I said, I let my emotions get the best of me, because it’s a smart football play. If you are in that situation, why not? It’s not cheating, because there’s no rule against it, from a guy going down. I don’t know if he was hurt or not; he might’ve been hurt. That’s fine … just interesting timing for a guy to go down when it’s a close play.”

On the defense

We know the New England defense doesn’t get much respect from the fans. Question marks abound, but this team IS 9-3, in a season where the offense has been shorthanded and hardly posting 2007 numbers.

Sunday, J.C. Jackson, in his first NFL start, played a strong game – OK, he got away with some borderline plays – and Jason McCourty continues to perform, as the latest Belichick reclamation project.

Speaking of the defense, broadcaster Alex Barth tweeted: “The #Patriots defense hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passer in five games. They haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in NINE games.

Not many terrible defenses doing that...”

On the other side of the ball, Brady improved to 33-4 in December stretch run games, and two of those losses were in games his team wasn’t trying to win.

Hayward arrives

A major Celtics highlight over the weekend was Gordon Hayward narrowly missed a triple double in his best game with his new team. He earned a baseball-like shower from teammates on television after the game.

Hayward busted out days after teammate Marcus Smart got him angry in practice, challenging him to be … well, Gordon Hayward.

From MassLive: “The results were eye-opening. Coach Brad Stevens said the practice let him know Hayward had a big performance was coming. Kyrie Irving said he knew Hayward had “that ticker inside him.” Morris said Hayward started getting out in transition and dunking in ways the Celtics had yet to see since he joined the team.”

It had become almost an afterthought how good Hayward was before the Celtics signed him and saw him suffer that horrendous leg injury.

“It’s slowly coming along,” Hayward said after delivering 30 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in the win at Minnesota. “I think my confidence is slowly coming back, too. I’m still not where I want to be, but for sure, me attacking is better for our team and not being hesitant or passive.”

Said Stevens: “This has not been easy for him, and all he’s done is grit his teeth and been a great teammate and worked hard. I think there’s a lot to be said about that. The year didn’t start the way he wanted to. He’s not starting. But I think that he has helped set the example for what this team needs to be about.”

This and that

Zack Greinke is very much on the market, but the Red Sox and Yankees are two of the 15 teams reportedly on his no-trade list. That means he would need to give permission for a move to either.

…Scoffing at Brady’s 1,000 yards on the ground after all these years, column pal Chris Smith points out that Dan Marino, in 242 regular-season games, was credited with 87 yards – on 301 carries.

Charlie McAvoy has been out since Oct. 18 with a concussion, but NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty said Monday, “Charlie McAvoy on the ice practicing and skating with the Bruins again. He has shed the no-contact sweater, so things continue to move in a good trend for him.”

…McAvoy said he is “reintroducing these things to my brain. Actually, one of the things I heard is my brain is out of shape. So, it’s kind of teaching those things, reintroducing them, and things are going well right now.”

…Yahoo Sports rated Boston College’s First Responder Bowl (Dallas) date with No. 25 Boise State 18th among the 39 bowl games, with the words, “Boston College really might finish 7-6 for the fifth time in six seasons under Steve Addazio. That’s especially disappointing when you remember BC started the year 7-2 and was consistently ranked in the top 25. Boise State blew a chance to win the Mountain West championship on its home turf, but had to go on a seven-game winning streak just to reach that point. This is a really good Broncos team.”

Terry Rozier is being sued by New York company Fun World for his “Scary Terry” sales that resulted from his getting the name, and a Ghost Face mask. According to Yahoo, “Fun World, a subsidiary of Easter Unlimited, owns the trademark for Ghost Face, which is a Halloween mask inspired by artist Edvard Munch’s 1893 painting ‘The Scream’ and made famous by the 1996 film ‘Scream.’ The movie franchise entered into a contractual license with Fun World for use of the mask. The company is suing Rozier for copyright and trademark infringement, counterfeiting and dilution by blurring, seeking up to $150,000 for each alleged violation and further damages.” That’s according to a Sports Illustrated report by Mike McCann, founding director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

…Finally, Kudos to the music folks at Gillette Stadium for Sunday when the officials had trouble with the clock, resulting in two two-minute warnings in the first half: Chicago’s “Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?”

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com.