FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — This time last year and each of the four Januarys prior to that, cornerback Stephon Gilmore was focused solely on spending time with family.

He would be coming off another lost season with the Buffalo Bills, whose playoff drought reached its 17th consecutive year in the last of his five seasons there. So now, with the New England Patriots, he’s excited for a new type of January schedule, one that will include his first trip to the postseason.

“You want to come somewhere that coaches can put you in position to make plays,” Gilmore said of the lure of the Patriots. “There are a lot of great players on this team who I heard about, and it’s fun winning and being around some great guys. They help you play to the potential that you have.”

Gilmore signed a five-year, $65 million contract with the Patriots last offseason. Obviously the life-changing deal was enticing enough, but there was also the virtual guarantee Gilmore would get to perform on the biggest stage of his life. While the Bills went 36-44 in his time there and never to the playoffs, the Patriots went 62-18 in the regular season in that span, were in five AFC championship games and won two Super Bowls.

The impending playoff stage is also the reason he hasn’t psyched himself up for a week from Saturday when the top-seeded Patriots host the divisional round at Gillette Stadium.

He’s concentrating on the fundamentals rather than the broad spectrum.


“I’m excited,” Gilmore said. “I’m just trying to take it day by day, work on my technique, sharpen up some things, work on my eyes, work on my feet, work on my ball skills.

“I just try to take it day by day, work on myself, work on my game, envision making plays. Just working on myself because if I perfect myself, no matter who I go against, I think I can win.”

Gilmore’s first Patriots season has been up and down, but the positives outweighed the rough patches. Quarterbacks targeting Gilmore have completed 37 of 68 passes (54.4 percent) for 525 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions (a 82.0 passer rating against), and he broke up seven passes.

He had a difficult start through the first four weeks while adjusting to the new system, gave up a couple big plays to Pittsburgh receiver Martavis Bryant in Week 15 and struggled again in Week 16 against the Bills.

But there was a long, solid stretch at the midpoint and he bounced back Sunday against the Jets, holding quarterback Bryce Petty to 1 of 4 for 8 yards and a pass breakup when targeting him.

Gilmore understood why there was criticism of his performance early but he was good at drowning it out. He never cared about the external noise because his teammates remained in his corner and recognized he would be better. That’s what motivated him.


It’s been similar with the praise and now the hype of his playoff debut. Zero in on the details during the bye week and let everything unfold next week as it may.

“I’m just trying to focus on myself,” Gilmore said. “I’ve been playing this game forever. I’m just trying to have fun, focus on my technique and go from there.

“I come in and try to work hard and do whatever I can to help the team win, to put me in certain positions and put me in the best position for myself to win (the matchup). That’s what I try to focus on.”

It’s better than already being off for the winter. Gilmore will still get that family time this weekend with his wife and two kids, but he’ll be looking forward to returning to work next week.

“I’m happy to be here,” he said.

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