FOXBORO -- Line 'em up. Knock 'em down.
That's been life for Stephon Gilmore over the course of the last several weeks. He's been given the assignment of covering the opponent's top wideout -- not always exclusively, but oftentimes close to it -- and played like one of the top corners in football. If not the top corner.
Gilmore held Green Bay's Davante Adams to two catches and 15 yards on four targets on Sunday night. The week prior, he gave up two catches to Buffalo's Kelvin Benjamin on seven targets. On four targets in coverage of Chicago's Allen Robinson, Gilmore held Robinson without a catch and he broke up a pass. On a night when the Chiefs put up 40, Gilmore limited Sammy Watkins to two catches and 18 yards on four targets.
Gilmore is now the top-graded corner in football, according to Pro Football Focus. Since Week 3, Gilmore has allowed a quarterback rating of 46.8 on passes thrown his way, which ranks fourth in the league.
“He’s definitely the best corner in the league this year,” Jason McCourty told Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran recently.
"I'll let everybody else say that," Gilmore said. "I just kinda like to focus on each week because I've found out at corner you gotta really focus on each week. You can't get caught up in last week. No matter who you're going against this week, it starts over. You gotta really focus on each and every play, getting better. Going against somebody different this week and I gotta prove myself this week."
Bill Belichick said on Wednesday that when he's determining the best way to deploy his defense, he values conversations with Gilmore the way he valued conversations with some of the other shut-down corners he's had during his years with the Patriots.
"Yeah, of course. Yeah, sure," Belichick said. "I mean, look, I have a ton of respect for Stephon. He’s covered and played against a lot of guys in this league. I mean, he’s willing to do whatever you ask him to do. I don’t think it’s a question of that. But yeah, you talk to those guys when you talk about matching them up – Ty [Law] or [Aqib] Talib or Gilmore, guys like that.
"You know, ‘How do you feel about certain guys?’ Because, again, playing against them is one thing, but how a particular player plays against them and what do you feel good about on the matchups or anything you’re worried about. You know, and then they tell you and sometimes that helps you how you want to defend them.
"Do they feel like they need help over the top? Do they feel like they need help underneath? Do they not feel like they need it? Those guys are pretty honest -- at least they have been through the years I’ve coached them. I mean, those are guys like that. Gilmore, Law, Talib. Those guys certainly fell into that category. They’d say, ‘Look, I don’t need any help on this guy.’ Then alright, great."
Gilmore isn't the most outspoken player in the Patriots locker, and he's not necessarily knocking down the doors of anyone's offices at One Patriot Place to suggest scheme or technique changes, but he appreciates those moments when coaches come to him with an idea or a question about a particular matchup.
"Most of the time we have the same thought," he said. ". . . We've got great coaches here and most of the time, the stuff they say is what happens. They wouldn't tell you nothing that would put you in a bad position so I listen to it and just try to make plays."
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