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Stephon Gilmore, who had Patriots’ game-changing pick, was almost a Bears CB

Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, right, intercepts a pass intended for Rams receiver Brandin Cooks during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. | David J. Phillip/AP photo

ATLANTA — The play felt like a game of throw-em-up in the backyard, Stephon Gilmore said minutes after he provided the Super Bowl’s most enduring moment Sunday night.

With the Patriots leading 10-3 with 4:24 remaining and the Rams at the Patriots’ 27-yard line, Gilmore intercepted a pass that Jared Goff lofted in the air in the direction of Brandin Cooks.

The pass, put up in the face of a blitz, was underthrown.

“To be honest, I can’t believe he threw it,” Gilmore said. “I was like, ‘I know he didn’t throw this with me looking at him.’ ”

Goff did, providing the most fatal of his mistakes in the Patriots’ 13-3 victory. In a game filled with offensive superstars, Gilmore was an unlikely hero.

In an alternate universe, he would have been home with the Bears.

In March 2017, the Bears thought they were close to signing Gilmore as a free agent. He wound up in New England instead, signing a five-year, $65 million deal with an $18 million signing bonus.

Despite an uneven two seasons — he posted two interceptions in each season — it turned out to be the right decision.


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“I wanted to come here,” Gilmore said. “I heard about it. I heard about how hard they work and how dedicated they were. I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to come in and put my head down and work hard and help as much as I can.”

Cooks gave credit to his former Patriots teammate.

“He had a great night, and he capitalized when he needed to and he did his thing,” Cooks said. “So respect for him, but I gotta be better.”