ARLINGTON, Texas — In an offseason that saw the Dallas Cowboys make a lot of transactions, their acquisition of Stephon Gilmore may prove to be their best.
After sending just a fifth-round pick to the Indianapolis Colts, the Cowboys brought in a former Defensive Player of the Year to lock down one of the boundaries on Dan Quinn's defensive unit. When Trevon Diggs went down in week three, that trade became even more important.
In the weeks since, Gilmore has rarely been tested. When he does have quarterbacks throw at him, he takes his wins and he takes his losses, but overall his play has been simply solid.
On Sunday night – in a game where he accounted for nine tackles and forced one timely fumble on A.J. Brown – he was simply elite. His performance against the Eagles' top pass-catcher came on the heels of a second half performance last week against DK Metcalf that saw him put a similarly dominant effort together as Dallas begins to see shades of how stellar Gilmore can really be.
"I enjoy it, because I feel like it brings a different part of me out," Gilmore said about following a team's best receiver. "Sometimes I get bored on other guys. I like covering the best guy sometimes. I just get excited for it."
His matchup on Sunday night with A.J. Brown had its fair share of flair and words exchanged back-and-forth from the very first possession when Brown took a shot at Gilmore's age.
"I just didn't like how he called me old at the beginning of the game," he said. "So it lit a fire in me a little bit. I was mad. The only thing I could do was show him I was still here, and I think I did that today."
"I've been doing this my whole career. Covering the best guy and following him. It's exciting because you know the ball is coming your way. I get up for those types of moments."
Gilmore's highlight play came on the Eagles' first possession of the second half – a possession they critically needed points on – when he allowed a Brown reception across the middle before jarring the loose into the hands of teammate Damone Clark. It was one of three fumbles recovered by the Dallas defense on Sunday night after defensive coordinator Dan Quinn put an emphasis on being aggressive on the ball earlier in the week.
"Coach Quinn told us this week that the ball was going to be alive," he said. "We were able to get those turnovers to turn the game around. We just have to keep doing it each week."
With a win over Philadelphia, Gilmore and his teammates now sit in a tie for the division lead but needing the Eagles to drop a game down the stretch to have a shot at the division and conference.
"I just think we know what type of team we have," he said. "We know what type of players we have. In this time of year, you have to play your best ball. We knew we were going up against a good team, a divisional team, we were excited for the opportunity."
The road doesn't get any easier for the Cowboys looking forward as they will head to Buffalo and Miami in the next two weeks before welcoming in Detroit to close a stretch of five consecutive games against playoff-caliber teams.
"We just gotta take it one game at a time," he said. "Like I said, we know what type of team we have. We have to prove it every week. We did it this week. We have to turn the page, enjoy it, and get ready for Buffalo next week."