New England Patriots: Ranking Top 5 Performers in the 2017 NFL Playoffs
By Hal Bent
The signing of Stephon Gilmore as a free agent to a five-year, $65 million deal shocked New England Patriots fans who were used to the team sitting out the bidding on premier players. After watching him get burned for big plays in the first five years of his career by quarterback Tom Brady while Gilmore was in Buffalo, the New England media and fan base on social media were aghast at the price tag for the free agent cornerback. After signing Gilmore, 2013 draft pick Logan Ryan defected to Tennessee and Super Bowl 49 hero Malcolm Butler openly tried to work his way to New Orleans as a restricted free agent.
Once the regular season games began, Gilmore was labeled a bust. Gilmore took the majority of the blame for blown coverages early in the season as the secondary gave up big play after big play. After a strong performance in week five against Mike Evans, Gilmore suffered a concussion and missed the next three games while back-up Johnson Bademosi thrived in his spot.
Gilmore turned his season around shutting down Demaryius Thomas, Amari Cooper and more in the second half of the season. In his first ever trip to the playoffs, he really stepped-up his game. Against Tennessee in the Divisional round, he was at his best not allowing a single reception on four targets his way (per ProFootballFocus). He also recorded a pass breakup.
Against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship game, Gilmore did give up one big play. In what could have been a miscommunication from a bunch set he gave up a 20 yards plus reception on the final drive of the game. However, Gilmore made the biggest play of the game and his career on fourth down with an almost magical pass break-up. Gilmore hung in the air fully extended to knock the pass away.
In the Super Bowl, Gilmore was one of the two defensive players that Philadelphia feared. Eagles’ quarterback Nick Foles seemingly picked on the New England secondary except for Gilmore. Per ProFootballFocus, Gilmore was targeted six times in Super Bowl 52. On those six pass attempts he allowed just three catches for just 19 yards and recorded a pass breakup. For the playoffs in total, he was was targeted 16 times, allowed 8 catches and had three pass breakups.