This Malcolm Butler Fiasco Still Does Not Make Sense.
Picture: Getty Images
The New England Patriots lost the most important game of the season on Sunday, 41-33 to the Philadelphia Eagles. The offense held up their end of the bargain, as Tom Brady threw for more than 500 yards, but the defense did not. In his last game as Patriots Defensive Coordinator, Matt Patricia could not come up with a strategy to stop Nick Foles and the Eagles offense, who pummeled the Pats D for more than 530 total yards. One potential reason for this may be because the Patriots were without their second best cornerback for the entire game, by choice.
According to multiple Patriot players, they found out right before the game that they would be without Malcolm Butler, as can be seen with Stephon Gilmore’s response below:
WATCH: Asked Stephon Gilmore when he found out Malcolm Butler wasn’t playing on D. “Same time y’all found out” pic.twitter.com/q74iBW78EF
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) February 5, 2018
When asked about it, both Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick provided little to no detail on why Butler remained sidelined. Patricia said, “We were just trying to run some packages we had on defense, and those guys that were out there for all the situations that we needed them for.” and Belichick said, ““We put the best players out there and the game plan out there because we thought it’d be the best to win.” Regardless of whose decision it was to bench Butler, it backfired big time. Left in Butler’s place were Eric Rowe, Johnson Bademosi, and Jordan Richards, and none of them could stop the Eagles passing attack. It seemed like whenever the Patriots needed to make a stop on third down, the Eagles converted, no matter the distance. In fact, the Eagles converted on 10 of their 16 third downs and both of their fourth downs.
What makes this worse is that the Patriots let the Eagles third-best running back beat them. Corey Clement, listed behind LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi on the depth chart, tallied over 100 yards from scrimmage, including a controversial receiving touchdown in the third quarter.
Other notables from the Eagles offensive outpouring include Nelson Agholor (9 REC, 84 YDS), Alshon Jeffery (3 REC, 73 YDS, 1 TD), Zach Ertz (7 REC, 67 YDS, 1 TD), and Nick Foles (1 REC, 1 YD, 1 TD).
In all honesty, Jeffery probably does not belong on this list. Once they put Stephon Gilmore on him full time, he was essentially shut down. Besides Tom Brady, you can make the case that Gilmore put up the best performance Sunday night. He really was the only one on defense who was consistently impacting the game.
So, why wasn’t Gilmore paired up with the corner who has played with him the most this season? Well, that remains to be seen. It’s been one heck of a journey for Malcolm Butler, and the Patriots portion of it ended in just about the worst way Sunday. From Super Bowl hero to Super Bowl healthy scratch, basically. He was hit with flu-like symptoms the week leading up to Sunday, but it was reported that he was practicing like he normally would. The Patriots had a warm body on the bench and they refused to use him. No matter how dire things were getting they refused to put their second best corner into the game, yet he only played one snap on special teams.
I don’t get it, man. If Butler broke team protocol and Belichick is that much of a disciplinarian, it’s whatever. Maybe he did something unforgivable, I have no idea. I wish we had a clearer picture of what happened, but no one on the coaching staff has or probably will provide that. After the game, Butler was quoted as saying, “They gave up on me. F—. It is what it is.” A disappointing end to a great story. Thanks for 49 Malcolm, good luck next season, wherever you may be playing.