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Bengals' Mike Hilton embracing Cooper Kupp matchup: 'I feel like we're the best two slots in the game'

There won't be a more challenging matchup in Super Bowl LVI than Mike Hilton's.

As the Cincinnati Bengals' nickelback, he'll be regularly charged with covering star slot receiver Cooper Kupp, who is the receiving centerpiece of the Los Angeles Rams' passing attack. Hilton, however, concedes nothing to the first-time All-Pro. As far as he's concerned, Kupp is facing the NFL's best slot cornerback.

"I feel like we're the best two slots in the game," Hilton said, per the Cincinnati Enquirer. "We'll get the space to go out there and prove it. Me against him in the Super Bowl."

Kupp has been utterly dominant this season as quarterback Matthew Stafford's favorite target, leading the NFL in catches (145), receiving yards (1,947) and receiving touchdowns (16). The league's last receiving triple-crown winner was NFL Network analyst and former Panthers star Steve Smith in 2005, and Kupp's reception and yardage totals were franchise records. His production hasn't dropped off a bit in the postseason, as Kupp has added 25 catches, 386 yards and four more scores over three playoff games.

Hilton respects it, but he doesn't fear it.

"He's just deceptive," Hilton said. "He knows how to switch tempos, slow his feet down and create separation for himself. … That's their go-to guy, and he's expected to win his one-on-one. But I know what I can do. That's going to be my mission this week."

His confidence for the matchup doesn't come without experience. As a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019, Hilton drew Kupp in coverage in a 17-12 Steelers win, and held him without a catch on four targets.

Hilton provided a big boost to the Bengals defense in his first season with the club after signing a $24 million contract in free agency. He notched two interceptions, eight tackles for loss and made 66 stops. And like Kupp, Hilton has been outstanding in the playoffs as well; he picked off Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the divisional round.

Against Stafford and Kupp, he'll face a tougher assignment. But he'll do it undaunted.

"Mike Hilton never backs down from the challenge," safety Jessie Bates said.

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