John Niyo and Justin Rogers preview Super Bowl LIII and they take a look at the Lions heading into free agency and the draft. The Detroit News


In two years, Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower has never heard Stephon Gilmore yell.

Not in practice. Not in a game. Not ever.

“He’s stays quiet, it’s not just because y’all are in here,” Hightower said with a chuckle. “He doesn’t talk. He’s a mute.”

Gilmore’s also — silently — assumed the role of lockdown cornerback for New England as it prepares to face two of the NFL’s top two receivers in its Super Bowl matchup with the Los Angeles Rams.

Being tasked to guard an opponents’ top receiver won’t be anything new for Gilmore, who is in his second season with the Patriots after leaving Buffalo and signing a five-year, $65 million free agent deal in 2017.

There were some shortcomings this season. Notably when New England’s secondary struggled in the second half of its narrow regular-season victory over Kansas City, allowing Tyreek Hill to catch three touchdown passes.

But more times than not, Gilmore has lived up to the challenge. He combined with J.C. Jackson and Keion Crossen to limit Hill to one catch and no touchdowns in the AFC championship game win over the Chiefs. And he’s only allowed two catches on the 10 passes thrown in his direction in the postseason.

“I kind of let my game do the talking,” Gilmore said. “I try to play my game regardless of who I’m going against. Some people can handle it, some people can’t.”

Judge rejects do-over bid

A quest by two New Orleans Saints ticketholders to force a full or partial do-over of this year’s NFC championship game because of a blown “no-call” by game officials was rejected Thursday by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan rejected arguments that Tommy Badeaux and Candis Lambert were entitled to an order, known as a “writ of mandamus,” forcing the NFL or Goodell to take action. A class-action lawsuit on behalf of ticketholders was still pending in state court as of Thursday.

Gospel choir’s NFL lineup

The Super Bowl Gospel Choir provides about 60 players — mostly retired and a couple of current ones — a different type of team atmosphere, one that combines a love of gospel music and pro football.

During rehearsal at the annual reunion, this time for Thursday night’s performance in the 20th Super Bowl Gospel Celebration at Atlanta Symphony Hall, retired Cowboys safety Dextor Clinkscale said he felt his spirit being rekindled in the same way it does each year.

The NFL-sanctioned choir will perform two songs at the sold-out event that’s being televised on BET Saturday.

Extra points

Eleven years after falling one win short of matching Miami’s undefeated season, New England is attempting to become the first team since those famed 1927 Dolphins to follow a loss in the Super Bowl with a championship the very next year.

... A seventh-grade girl from New Hampshire who was bullied for playing quarterback on a youth team is going to the Super Bowl courtesy of the Patriots.

... Patriots left tackle Trent Brown was excused from the team’s final media session to be with his wife, who had a baby in the Atlanta area.