COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — There was some speculation as to what would happen if the New England Patriots’ defense, which has been on the upswing since Week 5, suddenly dropped off again when high-priced cornerback Stephon Gilmore returned to the field.

The Patriots were letting up 12.3 points per game in the three weeks Johnson Bademosi replaced Gilmore, who sat out with a concussion and ankle injury. The Patriots let up just 16 points against the Denver Broncos on Sunday night in Gilmore’s return, and they allowed the fewest yards on the season and the second fewest passing yards. So, that speculation was unnecessary. The defense looked just as good with Gilmore back in the fold.

Gilmore played well in the game, too. He broke up a pass, and though he allowed a touchdown, he was in tight coverage and got his hand on the ball. Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas just made a better play for the score.

“He fit in well,” safety and defensive captain Duron Harmon said Wednesday. “Steph’s a tremendous player, a person, as well. He’s been out, but he’s constantly been in there, learning, still trying to work, still asking questions and I think that allowed him to play well last week. I know he’s going to continue to get better. He’s still feeling himself out. I think this is his sixth game playing with us. It’s still early. I’m excited to see what Steph grows to.”

Gilmore said Sunday he’s never been on a team that’s 7-2. He’s also hasn’t spent a week on the road with a team, like the Patriots are doing in Colorado Springs this week, since college. He’s embracing everything about life as a Patriot.

“I love it, man. I love playing with the guys,” Gilmore said. “They get the best out of me. The coaches coach good, and we just gotta keep winning. We have a good team coming up in Oakland. They have a lot of great talent. Gotta go out there and handle business.”

Harmon was impressed with Gilmore’s attitude after some early-season struggles that brought criticism from fans and the media.

“He’s a fighter,” Harmon said. “He’s not going to go into the tank. He’s not going to let anyone dictate how he feels or how he approaches the game. He just continues to work and just keep grinding. And you have to respect that because a lot of people will go in the tank, but you see he’s mentally tough enough to go out there, fix what he has to fix and then start playing productively.”

One thing fans might not know about Gilmore is he’s far and away the quietest Patriots player in recent memory. Harmon began cracking up when asked if Gilmore has an outdoor voice.

“I don’t know,” Harmon said. “I’ve never heard Steph raise his voice. Probably not. But it’s all good. We got enough people to yell in this building anyway. We don’t need any more.”

Thumbnail photo via Doug Kyed/NESN