Malcolm Butler was one play away from a pristine performance as the New England Patriots’ No. 1 cornerback Sunday in their 51-17 walloping of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
That’s two weeks in a row when Butler has spoiled an otherwise splendid performance by taking a risk and allowing a touchdown. He’s obviously still playing extremely well for a second-year pro, and it’s an important reminder that one play doesn’t define a player or a game. Butler struggled in Week 1 against Antonio Brown, but he’s churned out two impressive efforts in a row while tying together an otherwise rag tag group of cornerbacks. Perhaps after the bye week he can churn out the spotless performance, of which he’s obviously capable.
Check out this week’s film review:
— None of Tom Brady’s incompletions were caused solely by inaccuracy. Three passes were broken up, one was tipped at the line, two were intentionally thrown away, two were dropped and one appeared to be a miscommunication with tight end Rob Gronkowski.
— Both of the drops — one by wide receiver Julian Edelman and another by wideout Aaron Dobson — were slightly off, but the passes still should have been caught.
— No matter how hard teams try to game plan for Gronkowski, the big tight end still finds a way to get wide open.
— Brady tried to force an end-zone fade to Gronkowski, but it was broken up by Jaguars cornerback Davon House. Brady typically smartly picks his spots while targeting Gronkowski.
— New wide receiver Keshawn Martin showed impressive awareness on his touchdown reception, getting wide open on a scramble drill by Brady.
— The Patriots’ offensive line nostly did a nice job protecting Brady, but the quarterback looks slightly less comfortable when Marcus Cannon replaces Nate Solder at left tackle. That could just be because Brady is accustomed to Solder’s play. Solder is more athletic than Cannon, so he catches up to speed rushers more quickly off the edge. Cannon has to take a wider angle on his kick step to protect Brady.
— Center David Andrews surrendered his first sack of the season. Andrews and fellow rookies Tre’ Jackson and Shaq Mason have held up extraordinarily well in pass protection so far, though.
— LeGarrette Blount received 31 snaps and 18 carries against the Jaguars after just seven reps and two carries in Week 2. He made the most of his opportunities, running hard for 78 yards while being productive in short-yardage situations with three touchdowns in five carries inside the 5.
— Dion Lewis continued to make tacklers miss with 37 yards on eight carries.
— Blount was trusted as the clock-killing back. It probably doesn’t help Lewis that he has two fumbles in three games.
— Mason reported as eligible to play fullbaq — ahem — fullback nine times. The Patriots rushed the ball eight times, and the final play was a false start by Andrews. Mason was much better in his role as a lead blocker, though he still has a lot of work to do at the new position.
— Mason continues to impress while pulling, due to his elite athleticism for an offensive lineman. Nate Solder also had an impressive pull on an 8-yard carry by Blount.
— Cornerback Malcolm Butler gave up a touchdown for the third consecutive game. He leapt up to try to make a pass breakup — what would have been his fourth of the game — but whiffed and allowed a 59-yard touchdown to Jags wideout Allen Hurns. Duron Harmon, who was playing free safety on the play, missed a tackle.
Butler had a very good game otherwise. He’s showing huge potential as the Patriots’ No. 1 cornerback, but he has to put together a complete game.
— Starting free safety Devin McCourty had a big game, showing off impressive range on what would have been an interception if he and Butler weren’t fighting one another for the ball.
— McCourty also helped out rookie cornerback Justin Coleman on the first drive of the game, forcing an incompletion.
— Rookie safety Jordan Richards impressed at strong safety in his defensive debut, despite giving up a touchdown. He prevented a long completion by wide receiver Allen Robinson, when he carried him out of bounds after a catch, stopping his feet from touching the ground.
— The Patriots swapped between Cover-1, Cover-2 and Cover-3. They had their most success using Cover-3 zone.
— Jamie Collins is doing a much better job this season finishing sacks as he leads the team with 3.5. He had just four sacks all of last season and zero as a rookie.
— Jabaal Sheard hasn’t had one monster game so far, but he’s providing consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He leads the team with 13 total pressures.
— Dominique Easley is extremely quick with his first step, consistently beating the rest of his teammates off the snap. Usually, that helps disrupt the play in the backfield, but it also sometimes creates a rushing lane for the opposing back.
Here’s a time when Easley blew up the play, leading to no gain:
Here, Easley fires off the snap but loses contain of his hole when he gets pushed out:
Easley was big in holding the Jaguars to just 2.8 yards per carry. The Patriots came into the game allowing 5.7 yards per carry.
— Collins also had a big game against the run, showing off his aggressiveness by looping around a Jaguars running back on a 2-yard stop.
— Defensive tackles Sealver Siliga had a strong game, holding his ground against the Jaguars’ offensive line.
Thumbnail photo via James Lang/USA TODAY Sports Images
GIFs via NFL Game Pass
Thumbnail photo via Sep 27, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) fumbles the ball forward as he is hit by New England Patriots outside linebacker Jamie Collins (91) in the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports