DENVER -- Stephon Gilmore’s smile was hard to miss.
First, the team he plays for is rolling.
“I’ve never been 7-2 in this league. It’s crazy,” he said, a reference to his previous five years with the Buffalo Bills. “Oh man, we just have to keep it going. I haven’t won in my whole NFL career, so it feels good.”
Second, he played a significant role in the win, reclaiming his starting spot from Johnson Bademosi after missing the last three games with a concussion.
“It felt good. The injury I had, it was a little frustrating, a concussion. I thank God that He healed me and I was able to come back and take off where I left it and play confident.”
Whether Gilmore would have that opportunity made for some spirited debate over the past month, as Bademosi had filled in admirably and the defense had taken obvious strides without Gilmore. But coordinator Matt Patricia couldn’t have been more decisive with Gilmore on Sunday night, lining him up at left cornerback and never taking him off the field -- just like he did against the Buccaneers on Oct. 5, which was arguably Gilmore's best game.
An early pass breakup helped get Gilmore going Sunday night, and while he was penalized for defensive holding to negate a third-down stop and also was closest in coverage on a touchdown pass, he was mostly solid.
Gilmore relayed that the Patriots’ plan was to have him on Demaryius Thomas and fellow cornerback Malcolm Butler on Emmanuel Sanders, which was similar to what the team did against the Buccaneers by matching Gilmore up with Mike Evans and Butler with DeSean Jackson.
“We studied those guys and knew the majority of their routes,” he said of the Broncos' top wide receiver duo. “They switched some stuff up, but at the end of the day, we came out with the win so I was happy.”
Those smiles had been harder to come by when he was out with the concussion.
“I just listened to the doctors. They helped me out a lot. I just had to rest,” he said. “The only thing I didn’t like was that I couldn’t practice a couple days. I’m the type of person that likes to practice and work on my technique, but I felt like I played [well]. To miss a couple days, I was just blessed to be healthy again.
“You just never know with those injuries. You just have to be careful, listen to the doctors, and be honest. I feel good now, so that’s a good thing.”