Two of the most criticized Patriots were nails in the AFC Championship Game

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Some may feel that Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore haven't been as good as advertised in their first season with the Patriots.

Whether that's fair or unfair is a debate for another day. What can't be debated is this - they came up huge in the Patriots' 24-20 win over the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game yesterday.

Cooks caught six passes for 100 yards and aside from a big drop in the third quarter, fought for every ball, something he's been heavily criticized for. He also drew two huge pass interference calls that totaled 68 yards.

He was easily one of the best players on offense for New England yesterday and it truly could not have come at a better time. Cooks has clearly earned the trust of Tom Brady, which is going to be big heading into Super Bowl LII against the Eagles.

Meanwhile, Gilmore came up with the biggest defensive play of the game, maybe of the season. He reached out and knocked down a Blake Bortles pass intended for Dede Westbrook on 4th & 14 with just under two minutes to go in the game.


"Just the time I made it -- AFC Championship, biggest stage playing in the NFL," he said. "I've made plays like that before, but it's just the time I did it. I kind of anticipated the play a little bit and turned into the receiver. It's what our coaches always teach us -- to go find the ball -- and I was able to make a play."

It has taken Gilmore a while to learn the defense, but word on the street is that he's really figuring it out, which is also a great sign for the Patriots moving forward. The Eagles boast a dangerous group of receivers that will require Gilmore to be at his absolute best.

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