New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler had his best game of the year on Sunday night against the Atlanta Falcons after a trying start to the season.
At one point the former Super Bowl hero was benched in favor of Eric Rowe, but he took advantage of his opportunities from that point forward and has been a big part of New England’s defensive revival. After the game, he made it all sound relatively simple, too.
“Communication,” Butler said of the team’s defensive improvements according to Mike Giardi of NBC Sports Boston. “Just playing smarter and better. That’s all.”
With No. 1 cornerback Stephon Gilmore out with a concussion and Rowe battling a groin injury the past two weeks, Butler has drawn the tough assignments as the top corner. On Sunday night, that meant handling Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.
Though he finished with a decent stat line (9 catches for 99 yards and a score), Jones didn’t have a single catch of longer than 16 yards and his 1-yard touchdown catch came late in the fourth quarter with the outcome well in hand.
With Johnson Bademosi filling in opposite of Butler, the pair combined for 13 tackles, a tackle for loss and 2 pass deflections. The potent Falcons passing attack managed just 233 yards on the night and nobody had a catch of longer than 22 yards.
The Patriots kept a high-powered offense in front of them all night and have now surrendered just 38 points in their last three games. So maybe Butler is right and fixing their issues was as simple as communicating.