New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore played at a high level in week 5 against Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, but suffered an ankle and concussion injury that sidelined him through the bye week.
In the three games since the bye week, it’s increasingly clear that Gilmore is more of a shutdown cornerback than the sieve he played like over the first four weeks of the season. Gilmore has allowed 13 completions on 26 targets for 106 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, along with 2 pass break-ups, for a passer rating of 57.5 per the Herald’s Jeff Howe.
“He’s a fighter,” free safety Duron Harmon said about Gilmore’s development in recent weeks. “When he had his little problems at the beginning of the year he didn’t make excuses. He just came to work each and every day and he worked hard at it. It just shows the type of person he is, the type of player he is, the type of competitor he is and I’m glad he’s in my corner.”
Gilmore allowed just one reception for 5 yards against the Dolphins- the second-straight week he’s allowed single digit yardage- and added an interception for a passer rating of 2.8
That interception was a beauty and the result of great technique, football intelligence, and athleticism and it removed at least three points from the Miami Dolphins right before the half.
“It was a good job just understanding the situation,” free safety Devin McCourty said about Gilmore’s interception. “They had really one play left and usually teams [have] one play and you throw it up and you try to throw it into the end zone and if you don't get it you kick a field goal. But when you come down with an interception now you take all the points off the board. Steph did a good job in man-to-man coverage, the ball kind of hung in the air and he got his eyes back and made a good play.”
Gilmore covered Dolphins receiver Devante Parker out of the slot and the cornerback appeared to know the play and route better than the receiver, turning and breaking on the ball before the receiver even knew the ball was coming.
“They ran that route in the same formation earlier in the series,” Gilmore said via ProJo’s Mark Daniels. “They just flipped it. I knew the route was coming, they ran that route on us earlier in the first quarter and I knew they were going to come back to it. I know every time Parker is in the slot he runs the seam empty so I just beat him to the spot and played off and was able to make a play.”
The Dolphins tried to run the same route combination earlier in the drive, but Trey Flowers recorded a sack and Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore never threw the ball.
Gilmore registered the route combinations and the personnel package and was prepared for the throw when the Dolphins called the same design just two plays later.
“It’s just unfortunate,” Moore said about the interception. “I put the ball up and it was probably a little short. That’s all I can say about that one.”
The goal of the route combination was to isolate Gilmore on the inside of Parker, giving the Dolphins receiver plenty of space. The inside slot receiver was supposed to draw the safety help and the outside receiver was supposed to run a short route to ensure the Patriots wouldn’t have anyone in the passing lane.
Instead, Gilmore read the play, understood the leverages, and knew where the Dolphins intended to attack the secondary. Even Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was impressed by Gilmore’s performance.
“I thought he had good leverage on the play,” Belichick said about Gilmore’s play on the interception. “He did a good job when he kind of caught up to Parker on the route looking back for the ball and going up and making a play on it. I thought he did a nice job of playing his responsibilities with good technique, good leverage and then just turned at the right time when he should have as he moved close to the receiver, to Parker.”
Gilmore is living up to the big money contract the Patriots gave him over the offseason and he’s put together four consecutive strong games against four pretty good wide receiver corps. He will get another chance to prove himself in week 13 against his old team, the Buffalo Bills.
If Gilmore’s past four games are of any indication, the Bills should consider never throwing the football at their former cornerback.