By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Stephon Gilmore deserves credit for one thing on Sunday. He answered for his poor play after the Patriots’ 34-10 beating at the hands of the Tennessee Titans.
The cornerback entered Sunday having one of the best seasons of any defensive back in the NFL, and also flexed his muscles a little bit after his recent shutdown performances. He needled the Bills’ Kelvin Benjamin for having to commit penalties in order to get open. Gilmore took it personally that the Packers’ Davante Adams, who made only two catches against No. 24 last week, claimed that no one can cover him.
Well, there was no postgame jab to be thrown this time. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go for one of Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked cornerbacks.
Davis toasted the Patriots secondary with seven catches for 125 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. Five of those catches, including the touchdown, and 90 of those yards came against Gilmore. The corner also committed two defensive pass interference penalties, one of which was Davis’ score.
“I could’ve won that matchup a little bit more, but he made some plays today,” said Gilmore of Davis. “My hat’s off to them.”
Davis owned his matchup right out the gate, grabbing a 24-yard reception on the Titans’ first play from scrimmage. The Patriots’ defensive front and secondary worked in concert to blow the play, as Mariota was able to step up through the pocket and deliver an open strike to Davis and Gilmore was too slow to react to the in-cut.
The first play was fairly emblematic of how most of the game went for the Titans offense and Patriots defense.
It’s rare to see Gilmore allow so much separation like this. Not like him to look multiple steps behind, even against gifted a receiver like Davis.
Gilmore appeared to be nursing some kind of illness after the game, via the Boston Globe’s Nora Princiotti. There has clearly been something going around Gillette Stadium recently, with a handful of players popping up on the injury report with illnesses at various points. But it’s hard to excuse a performance like this away just because he might be a little under the weather. If you play, you should be expected to play at your usual level.
Gilmore was not at his usual level on Sunday, and regression from him is something this edition of the Patriots defense certainly can’t afford. Even when others struggled over the course of the Pats’ six-game winning streak, Gilmore had picked them up with consistently strong coverage against top receivers.
When Gilmore’s not having a good day, it’ll make life that much harder for a defense that has to depend rather heavily on him and Trey Flowers to make plays every week.
That certainly wasn’t the case in Nashville, and Gilmore owned it as best as he could after the game. He repeated a familiar refrain that he’s even said after his good days, a mantra that has helped make complete letdowns like Sunday’s so rare under Bill Belichick.
Good or bad, every new game is a clean slate.
“It changes every week,” said Gilmore. “You’ve got to be prepared every week and you’ve got to play every week. No matter what you did last week, each week you’ve got to take that approach. We didn’t play good this week.”
Sunday was as sobering a reminder of the week-to-week grind as you’ll see all season. Especially for the Patriots’ top cornerback.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.