It probably won’t enter the annals of all-time great postseason plays, mostly because it was done in service of extending the Patriots’ exhausting run of dominance and only served to thwart Blake Bortles, but Stephon Gilmore’s fourth-quarter swat is one of the finest plays you’ll ever see in a big moment.
The picture above tells the story of how incredible the self-contained action of the play was, but the context adds so much more shine to Gilmore’s intervention. Down four with under two minutes left, Bortles stepped up into the pocket on fourth-and-14, and for a brief moment it looked like things could still come apart for the Patriots. Those steps forward bought Bortles what appeared to be just enough time for New England’s coverage to crack, and from his point of view he saw Dede Westbrook with a step on his defender and nobody between him and the end zone. That’s when Gilmore took off, at just the right moment.
The Patriots’ reign of terror has come with a seemingly endless number of chances to be spoiled by some dope or collection of dopes—shout out to Eli Manning, the only goober to actually seize the opportunity—and last night Bortles and the Jaguars were the ones with the opportunity in their grasp. Imagine how hilarious, how incredibly absurd it would have been, to see Bortles drop a dime into Westbrook’s hands. What would it have felt like to see the Patriots’ dynasty finally toppled by the Jacksonville Goddamn Jaguars?
We’ll never know, and instead we’re left with the image of Gilmore batting the ball out of the sky while almost parallel to the ground. It’s an image that’s destined to be reviled or forgotten by most fans outside of New England, no matter how pretty it is.