No rookie defender had a stronger September than Patriots cornerback Christian Gonzalez.

Gonzalez on Thursday was recognized as the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month for his stellar play through the first three games of his pro career.

Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud earned top offensive rookie honors.

Gonzalez played all but one defensive snap over New England’s first three games and matched up against several of the league’s premier wide receivers, including Philadelphia’s A.J. Brown, Miami’s Tyreek Hill and last year’s NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Garrett Wilson of the New York Jets.

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The first-round draft pick was especially excellent against Hill and Wilson, who both finished with less than 50 receiving yards against the Patriots. Gonzalez also intercepted a deep pass intended for Hill in Week 2 and notched a sack on a corner blitz in Week 1.

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“I’ve just got to keep my head down and keep working and keep growing,” the soft-spoken cover man told reporters Wednesday. “Just come in each week and try to do what I do. Just listen to the coaches, take the film study and just put it out on the field.”

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It had been more than a decade since a Patriots defender had garnered Rookie of the Month honors. The last to do so before Gonzalez were Chandler Jones in 2012 and, before that, Jerod Mayo in 2008. Quarterback Mac Jones was Offensive Rookie of the Month in November 2021.

Five Patriots rookies in total have received monthly NFL honors, with wide receiver Deion Branch (2002) rounding out that list.

Gonzalez’s ability to immediately play at a high level helped the Patriots withstand injuries early-season injuries to Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones and Marcus Jones, who occupy three of the top four spots on their outside cornerback depth chart. Jack and Marcus Jones are on injured reserve, and Jonathan Jones missed the Dolphins and Jets games with an ankle ailment.

FanDuel Sportsbook had Gonzalez as the third favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year as of Thursday afternoon (+750), trailing Texans edge rusher Will Anderson (+650) and Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Jalen Carter (-110).

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The 21-year-old Oregon product will face another stiff challenge this Sunday against Dallas Cowboys wideout CeeDee Lamb.

Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images