New England Patriots starting cornerback Malcolm Butler didn’t play on defense in Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles, even though the Patriots defense was gashed for 41 points. The Patriots 2016 Second Team All Pro cornerback was not a part of their defensive game plan.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said it wasn’t a disciplinary decision and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said it came down to personnel and the packages the Patriots needed to counter the Eagles offense.
New England wanted Eric Rowe to cover Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, with safety Patrick Chung in the slot against Nelson Agholor and Stephon Gilmore on the outside against Torrey Smith. It did not go well and the Patriots swapped roles for Gilmore and Rowe.
But when Chung was injured, the Patriots opted to play Johnson Bademosi and Jordan Richards over Butler, so it’s clear Butler was far down the Patriots list of defensive backs.
“They gave up on me. F—. It is what it is,” Butler told ESPN’s Mike Reiss.
“I don’t know what it was,” Butler added. “I guess I wasn’t playing good or they didn’t feel comfortable. I don’t know. But I could have changed that game.”
Rowe claims that he didn’t know that he would be starting over Butler until kickoff and that Butler had been a part of the Patriots defensive gameplan all week in practice. Devin McCourty said that the team knew that Butler wasn’t going to be involved before tonight.
No one can agree on why the Patriots didn’t play Butler on the biggest stage. But when the defense forces just one punt all night, not having the player that started at cornerback the entire season on the field is probably a big reason for the struggles.