The best cornerback in the NFL earned a signature game in what has been a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber season.
New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore completely wiped Dallas Cowboys star receiver Amari Cooper from the box score, holding the wideout to zero catches on two targets. In fact, Gilmore caught more passes from Dak Prescott than Cooper, intercepting the Cowboys quarterback on a first-half target.
Gilmore has been among the best defensive players the entire season, earning four INTs and a team-high 13 passes defended. On the top defense in the NFL, Gilmore is an alpha.
"He's a monster," Pats receiver Julian Edelman said. "I get to battle against him every day, and I love getting to do it because it makes me better. He has a knack for the ball, he's confident, and he's got that steady mind where he's never up, he's never down. He barely talks. But when he does talk, it's usually ball, and I love the conversations we do have.
"It's unbelievable to have a teammate like him. You're just seeing the tip of it. He does that stuff in practice all the time."
Gilmore's ability to negate an opponent's top receiver affords Bill Belichick the luxury of rolling coverage elsewhere, knowing his athletic corner can handle himself on an island.
On Sunday, the CB held Cooper to his first game in a Cowboys jersey with zero catches. The first target to Cooper, Gilmore intercepted, leading to a Pats field goal and a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter. Prescott pretty much ignored Cooper the rest of the way. The second target his way not negated by penalty came on fourth-and-11 with 1:44 left on the clock. The wideout dove for a pass over the middle, but after review, the ball was ruled incomplete.
"That wasn't a catch. It hit the ground, and I knew it hit the ground. I gave my best effort to catch the ball; I just came up short," said Cooper.
The wideout noted that with the windy, wet conditions, Dallas "didn't throw the ball downfield how we would have liked."
Facing Gilmore also played a role.
The corner who signed a five-year, $65 million contract in New England in 2017 should now be considered underpaid.
With the Patriots streaking toward another postseason bye, when awards come out, if no pass rusher jumps to the forefront of the DPOY discussion in December, Gilmore could earn the hardware as the top shutdown corner on the best shutdown defense in the NFL.