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Why didn’t the Patriots challenge Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler on Sunday?

New England refused to go after the lowest rated cornerback in the league.

New England Patriots v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The sting of getting embarrassed in Tennessee may be wearing off a little, but there’s one thing that I just can’t stop thinking about: the Titans have, statistically, the worst cornerback in the NFL in ex-Patriots defender Malcolm Butler. He played 50 snaps on Sunday, and New England threw his way twice. Now, you’re probably making an argument about how Chris Hogan has been bad this year, and he hasn’t been able to get separation. Look, I agree.

Hogan has stunk this year, but Tom Brady also never even looked his way quite a few times. Also, he played 54 snaps on offense and had zero targets. FIFTY-FOUR SNAPS! That’s over 80% of the team’s offensive plays. Why even have him out there if you’re not going to throw him the ball? Just put in Phillip Dorsett instead, if you feel that he can’t get open or that Brady doesn’t trust him. Seems kind of stupid to keep putting him out there if they’re never going to look his way.

Credit Tennessee for knowing the Patriots would refuse to look Hogan’s way and burying Butler on him. A solid way to get his confidence back up: he doesn’t have to have great coverage if they’re never going throw his way. In fact, there were a few times where Hogan beat Butler, but Brady still did not looked at him. And don’t give me the pressure excuse: Josh McDaniels has to recognize Butler is on the other side and make his man the first option. That will give enough time to get the ball over there.

Maybe the Patriots didn’t trust Hogan, and maybe they thought Butler would bounce back, or maybe they thought Josh Gordon would beat Adoree Jackson more consistently. Whatever the reason, it’s not good enough for me. Butler is a guy they should’ve gone after early and often. It’s possible that, if the Patriots had challenged him, he would’ve responded with a great game, but you have to at least make him prove it.

The fact that they didn’t makes me wonder who’s call that was. Did McDaniels really just not think of it, or was Brady just unwilling to throw to any wide receiver not named Gordon or Julian Edelman? After all, 24 of the 27 targets to wideouts during the game went to those two. The Patriots are in for a long week of self-reflection, and offensive game planning looks like it could use some serious work.

Pat is the host of The Patriot Nation Podcast

Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats