On February 1st, 2015, Malcolm Butler etched his name in sports history with one of the greatest and most clutch plays you will ever see.
He went from an undrafted rookie out of Western Alabama to one of the most famous men in the world in a matter of a few seconds. We have seen this type of situation before. An athlete bursts onto the scene, fans go crazy, and in a few short months, we have forgotten all about him. Some classic examples of this would be Jeremy Lin, David Tyree, and even Freddy Adu. While each of these players did something spectacular to burst onto the scene in their respective sports, we seldom hear their names anymore.
After the confetti was all cleaned up and the Patriots had returned to the wonderful region of New England, I found myself wondering if this would be the case with Malcolm Butler too. The kid made one lucky play. How could anyone judge how good he really is from that one play? However, I am glad to report that I was wrong. Malcolm Butler has embraced his rise to stardom and is now one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL. Quite an accomplishment for the undrafted rookie from Western Alabama, huh?
Coming into this season, the Patriots lost two of their top corners in Darelle Revis and Brandon Browner. This meant that Butler was going to be their number one corner. This was a huge responsibility for the second year Butler, but so far he has risen to the task. He had a rough game in week 1, allowing Antonio Brown nine catches for 133 yards and one touchdown. However, in the weeks to come, he would shut down receivers such as Sammy Watkins, T.Y Hilton, Brandon Marshall, and Odell Beckham Jr. I would consider all four of these receivers to be elite and there is no corner in the game who is able to completely shut them down. The fact that Butler was able to limit their contributions and in turn, help the Patriots win shows that he is the real deal.
While Butler’s stats this season (45 tackles, 1 interception) might not stick out, he has been one of the most effective corners in the game. Look at what happened to Richard Sherman. After his breakout year, quarterbacks stopped throwing in his direction. This has limited his interception numbers, but he is still very effective. Just his presence on the field is helping his team. I believe that this is the same thing that has happened to Malcolm Butler. Just because his stats aren’t necessarily the flashiest in the league, doesn’t mean that he’s not playing just as well as any other corner.
If you still don’t believe me, you should go watch the film from the game against the New York Giants in week 10. Butler was matched up against Odell Beckham Jr. who we all know is capable of putting up big numbers. Early in the game, Butler got beat by Beckham and was inadvertently knocked down by fellow teammate Devin McCourty, leading to a Beckham touchdown. After that play, Butler shuts Beckham down. You can see Beckham is getting visibly frustrated by Malcolm using his body and breaking up pass after pass that is thrown in his direction. In the 2nd half of that game against the Giants Butler plays what I believe to be “near perfect” defense. He was a major reason why the Patriots ended up winning that game, other than a couple guys named Tom Brady and Stephen Gostowski. This is not the only game that shows how good Butler really is, but it is definitely one that sticks out.
Overall, it is hard not to marvel at the fact that Malcolm Butler has not only become a starter on the New England Patriots, but he has become one of the elite cornerbacks in the entire NFL. I am sure that some of you “Patriot-Haters” out there don’t agree with me, so feel free to comment or tweet me @bkropp20. I would be more than happy to continue this debate with you.