The New England Patriots are alone atop the NFL, boasting a 6-1 record and a three-game winning streak since Tom Brady returned under center after observing a season-opening, four-game suspension.
New England is firmly atop the league standings following a 27-16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers–the Patriots’ third-straight win over an AFC North opponent—displaying a diverse offense and a dominant defense.
The Patriots are limiting opponents to just 15.3 points per game this season, good for 4th in the entire NFL. Cornerback Malcolm Butler’s efforts on Steelers pro bowl wideout Antonio Brown played a key role in New England’s defensive effort, most notably holding Brown and all world running back Le’Veon Bell out of the end zone.
Both Butler and tight end Rob Gronkowski made Pro Football Focus’ Top 10 players from Week 7 for their efforts at Heinz Field.
Butler allowed Brown to catch 10 of 11 targets or 151 yards and a touchdown a season ago. On Sunday, he allowed Brown only 5 catches on 11 targets, zero touchdowns, picked off a pass intended for Brown in the end zone and broke up three of the incompletions. Butler came in as PFF’s No. 3 overall player in the NFL in Week 7. Through 7 weeks, he ranks in the top 10 of PFF’s cornerback grades.
Gronkowski was graded as PFF’s 10th best player on Sunday. He caught all four of his targets for 93 yards and the game’s go-ahead touchdown midway through the third quarter. Tom Brady had a passer rating of 158.3 when targeting him. Gronkowski was also dominant blocking for LeGarrette Blount in the Patriots’ run game.