Whatever affliction that New England Patriots CB Logan Ryan has suffered thus far in 2016, which made the cornerback always be thisclose to defending the ball, seems to have spread to CB Malcolm Butler. Hopefully it is just a one week issue against some quality Jets receivers, but sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other team- they made some pretty extraordinary plays.
“[The Jets] made some great catches,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said after the game. “[Jets QB Ryan] Fitzpatrick and [Jets WR Quincy] Enunwa and [Jets WR Brandon] Marshall made some great plays. You've got to give them credit.”
Butler came up short on three major plays that shifted the game in the Jets favor. While most would like for the #1 cornerback to be able to force stops in these situations, Butler was an inch or two out of position and came up short- literally.
Q1 2-1-NYJ 30 (3:59) R.Fitzpatrick pass deep right to Q.Enunwa to NE 30 for 40 yards (M.Butler).
Quincy Enunwa got a step on Butler out of the snap, but Butler did a good job recovering and getting his hand up as soon as the ball arrived. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to throw a more perfect 40-yard pass than was Ryan Fitzpatrick delivered to Enunwa.
Butler maintained inside leverage and Fitzpatrick dropped it over Enunwa’s outside shoulder. Butler might have been able to make a play if he had longer arms, but this is as good of a throw-and-catch as you’ll see in the NFL. This play also set up the following catch...
Q2 2-1-NE 1 (15:00) R.Fitzpatrick pass short right to B.Marshall for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN
Butler was clearly expecting Brandon Marshall to run the fade, but Fitzpatrick delivered a bullet to Fitzpatrick’s shoulder instead of lofting the football into the corner. Butler never really got his hands up to have a chance to defend the ball.
Marshall is a savvy veteran and this was a great effort by the receiver. Of the three plays I’m highlighting, Butler should have best been able to make a stop here. But when you have a 6'4 1/2 receiver with a 37" vertical against 5'9 3/4 cornerback with a 33.5" vertical, well, that’s a difficult matchup every time.
Q4 2-10-NE 22 (10:26) R.Fitzpatrick pass deep right to Q.Enunwa for 22 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Butler jumped a second too early to break up the pass, but the ball was placed in the only spot where the receiver could make a catch and still fall down inbounds.
“Good thing [Enunwa] does all those squats and got his butt down,” Fitzpatrick joked after the game.
But like the first play, Butler was just a hair too short to make a play on the ball. If the ball went an inch in any other direction, perhaps Butler breaks it up or Enunwa doesn’t come down with it. You have to just accept that the other team is going to make good plays.
Butler wasn’t the only Patriots cornerback to lose matchups because of a perfectly called counter by the Jets offense. Marshall ran a nice crossing route against Logan Ryan in man coverage to convert a third down, and Fitzpatrick also delivered a good pass to Enunwa on a similar route with Eric Rowe in coverage.
Fitzpatrick delivered a nice ball while getting hit and Rowe wasn’t able to close the gap after playing in trail coverage. The Jets called up a great counter to the Patriots defensive play call.
Belichick says that he learned a lot about his team on Sunday, especially how they continued to battle despite having some close plays go against them.
“I think it says a lot about our team, their resiliency, mental toughness, ability to focus and execute under pressure,” Belichick said. “A lot of games in this league come down to the last series, a couple plays. You battle it out for 54, 55, 59 minutes and it comes down to one or two plays that are critical if they're executed well and if they're designed well, they have a chance to do it. We've had a lot of those come up and we've handled those pretty well.”
And while the Jets were converting these tight plays during the first half, they failed to connect in the second half. These plays make the entire difference between a great defensive performance and one worthy of ire.
No player saw more critical plays than Butler on Sunday and they all unfortunately went against him. If Belichick is right, then Butler is going to bounce back in week 13 and play better than ever.