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Of all the players and personalities in the 2023 Dallas Cowboys locker room, cornerback Stephon Gilmore -- 33 years old -- is probably the most even-keeled and chill of them all. That's just who the five-time Pro Bowler is as a person, and as a football player he has seen it all: winning Super Bowl LIII in 2018 with the New England Patriots as well as being the last defensive back to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2019.

Since he's accomplished as much as he has, he only really gets fired up for the tests that show what you're made of as a cornerback: covering top flight, No. 1 wide receivers. Last week in a 41-35 victory against the Seattle Seahawks, second-year cornerback DaRon Bland, the NFL's interceptions leader (eight) and all-time, single-season record holder for pick-sixes (five), looked like a player going through his first season as an outside corner for the first time in 2023. Pro Bowl wideout DK Metcalf racked up 108 yards and two touchdowns on three catches in the first half with Bland as his primary defender. 

Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn flipped Gilmore on Metcalf in the second half, and Metcalf totaled a meager 16 yards and a touchdown on two grabs. On Sunday, Gilmore went wire-to-wire on Eagles No. 1 receiver A.J. Brown, frustrating him all night long in a 33-13 Cowboys defensive masterclass

"I love it because the ball is going to come to them," Gilmore said after Sunday night's win. "They have to throw it to the best guy. That allows me to make plays when I can. Sometimes when I stay on one side I get bored a little bit. I was happy coaches trusted me to travel, and I was just happy we came up with a man [game plan]."   

Philadelphia failed to find the end zone as they committed three turnovers, all lost fumbles. Gilmore forced the second one on a punch-out in coverage of Brown, something the Cowboys anticipated occurring. 

"Coach Quinn, he told us this week the ball is going to be alive," Gilmore said. "We were able to get those turnovers to the game around and you just have to keep doing that each week."  

"I think I've been doing this my whole career, covering the best guy," Gilmore said of shadowing Brown in match coverage. "The fighting because you know the ball is coming your way. I get up for those types of moments."

Brown, who had nine catches for 94 yards but no touchdowns while being targeted 13 times, and Gilmore exchanged plenty of trash talk throughout the night, jostling back and forth as the 226-pound Brown was unable to shake the 190-pound Gilmore despite a nearly 40-pound difference in stature. 

"I told him I wanted him because you know the ball will go to him, and you can make plays," Gilmore said. "I've done this my whole career. It lights fire in me because I love those moments going against other great guys on the other side of the ball."

The Eagles top receiver poked Gilmore in the one area he doesn't play around about: his age. At age 33, he is an outlier among outside corners who regularly cover another team's top pass-catcher. However, the jab clearly didn't rattle the Cowboys defensive back. 

"I was mad," Gilmore said. "I was going to show him, that's the only thing I could do. I'm still here and I think I did that today."  

One of the reasons why he is still "here" with high-level defensive play is his impact as a mentor for some of the Cowboys' young, rising defensive stars like Bland and All-Pro edge rusher Micah Parsons, both of whom are just 24 years old. Those two playing at All-Pro-caliber levels allows him to have the ability to be another receiver's full-time shadow. Gilmore joined the Cowboys this offseason after being acquired from the Indianapolis Colts via trade in exchange for a fifth-round pick. 

"I would say from the very beginning, Gilmore has gotten Tre[von Diggs] better, Bland better, and everyone he's met, even me," Parsons said postgame. "We talk about body-breaking and everything he doesn't eat and what I do and how I started doing the stuff he's doing. He's the best person we could have added to our team when it comes to the defense, so really grateful he decided to come here and add to this team."

After Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox's strip-sack of Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott morphed into a scoop-and-score touchdown for Philadelphia rookie defensive tackle Jalen Carter, the Birds began to build momentum. However, Gilmore essentially snuffed the last bit of remaining hope the Eagles had with a sound tackle of wide receiver DeVonta Smith on fourth-and-8 at the Cowboys 30 for a gain of one and a turnover on downs. 

"He's so smart and just his ability to play with leverage, and just the way he attacks the ball," Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said postgame. "He's been doing it forever in this league, and he's got such a gift the whole package of reading the routes, playing to leverage so obviously two huge plays for us."  

Following the victory over the Eagles, Dallas extended its home winning streak to 15 games, the longest active streak in the NFL and the second-best in franchise history. The win vaulted the Cowboys into first place in the NFC East over the Eagles on the strength of the division record tiebreaker. Dallas holding on to the NFC East crown into the playoffs would be massive because each division winner is guaranteed at least one home game in the postseason. 

Playing one or multiple home games in January could help the Cowboys break through to their first NFC title game and Super Bowl appearance since the 1995 season. That purpose is what helped push Gilmore to Dallas. 

"For sure, that's why I wanted to come here," Gilmore said when asked about his potential to put Dallas over the top. "I knew the Cowboys had a great last year, and I just wanted to come in and do whatever I can to help this team win."  

He will have plenty of opportunities to showcase his worth the next three weeks with road games at the Buffalo Bills in Week 15 (Pro Bowl wide receiver Stefon Diggs), at the Miami Dolphins in Week 16 (All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill) and the Detroit Lions in Week 17 (up-and-coming wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown).