This is most definitely not how we want to spend those long, interminable days between the rare loss and the chance to bounce back against a playoff contender. Even if Stephon Gilmore wanted to defend his secondary from a DeAndre Hopkins flex, this feels a lot less Patriots Way than it does sort of … just to pick a team … Jacksonville. Even if Hopkins is celebrating an early December win by his franchise that hasn’t even played in a conference championship game in its existence, he still won the game. To the victors go the spoils and all that.
None of which means Gilmore is wrong. As the lawyers say, truth is a defense against libel. If you feel yourself being slandered, you are well within your rights to answer back. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. And a playing man coverage against the best wide receiver on the opponent every week – and THE best wideout in the game in this instance – a man needs to protect his reputation. You become like a Mob boss, and if someone senses you’re vulnerable, that perception becomes reality.
So who’s right here? I’ll take Gilmore’s word for it that Hopkins was doubled just twice in Houston’s 28 dropbacks. And the Patriots mixed in some zones so it’s unclear exactly how many times it purely Gimore vs. Hopkins one-on-one. But here are the numbers for each in the game:
Hopkins (via NextGenStats): 8 Targets, 5 Receptions, 64 Yards, 0 TDs, 99.7 Passer Rating
Gilmore (via ProFootballFocus): 4 Targets, 4 Receptions, 47 Yards, 11.8 YPC, 0 TDs, 115.6 Passer Rating
Which makes it the fifth worst game of the season for Hopkins and the worst game of the season for Gilmore. The kind of thing you can expect when the best wideout in the business faces the best cornerback, but definitely Hopkins wins the decision on all three judges’ cards. And more importantly, the scoreboard.
Fortunately for all of us, both player’s had teammates climbing into the ring with them:
Which, while good for a laugh, isn’t going to help Gilmore shut down Tyreek Hill or the Texans go one & done in the playoffs yet again. That doesn’t make it a bad thing. Just the kind of thing that makes December worth living on 4-win teams, not Super Bowl-driven franchises fighting for the 1-seed. So thanks to Hopkins, Gilmore, Van Noy and Howard for the distraction, but we’re onto Kansas City.