ATLANTA — Stephon Gilmore knew the play he wanted was coming.
Trailing by a touchdown with less than five minutes remaining in Super Bowl LIII, quarterback Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams were charging up the field in hopes of leveling the score at 10 apiece. But Gilmore had a feeling that the ball would be heading the defense’s way.
“The series before that, we’re sitting on the bench, and Steph goes, ‘[Goff]’s going to throw us one. We just have to make sure we squeeze it and hold on to it,’” relayed cornerback Jason McCourty after the game.
Sure enough, at New England’s 27-yard line, Goff’s heave intended for wide receiver Brandin Cooks sailed right into the arms of Gilmore. The interception gave the Patriots an opportunity to seal their victory, as the team regained possession at its own four-yard line.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) February 4, 2019
“I saw it the whole time,” Gilmore said. “I knew he was going to chuck it up. It’s probably one of the easiest picks I had all year.”
The Patriots hung on to win, 13-3, marking Gilmore’s first-ever Super Bowl title.
“It feels great,” he said. “This is what you dream about as a little kid. All the hard work you put in over the offseason, the weight room — I feel like we meet more than anybody — it’s worth it. It’s worth it.”
Gilmore he’s known for the past two weeks that he’d be defending Cooks, his former teammate, so he watched every pass thrown to him over the course of the entire season. As the Rams moved closer to the red zone on that fourth-quarter drive, Gilmore said he anticipated Goff taking some shots toward the end zone based on the tendencies he saw via film.
“You got to know the situation, know the quarterback, know who you’re playing against and play accordingly,” he said.
Sunday’s play was hardly the first time Gilmore — or as McCourty calls him, “Gilly Lockdown” — has come up clutch in a Patriots uniform. The 28-year-old has played smothering defense en route to his first-team All-Pro selection this season. Not to mention he also had a game-saving tipped pass in the fourth quarter of AFC Championship against the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.
But the soft-spoken Pro-Bowler deflected most the credit Sunday, shouting out the defensive line for putting “a lot of pressure” on Goff and the coaches for putting the players in the “right position” to make plays. Gilmore, who signed with the Patriots in March 2017 said there’s tremendous trust throughout the organization.
“We trust each other to be in the right spots,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to.”
He also attributed the team’s sustained success to a dedication to hard work.
“I feel like there are no shortcuts,” Gilmore said. “It’s a grind every day. Nobody knows how hard we work. We work hard every day and we compete every day. Blood, sweat, and tears. No matter what, we come out and compete. If you’re limping, you’re competing. I feel like nobody does that in other organizations. It’s a grind every day, but it’s worth it. You have an opportunity to go to the playoffs and an opportunity to go to the Super Bowl.”