Malcolm Butler ‘Building’ After Demotion: ‘Whatever You See, Judge Me’

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FOXBORO, Mass. — Returning to the New England Patriots’ starting lineup after a one-week demotion, Malcolm Butler played his best game of the season Sunday afternoon.

Replacing injured cornerback Eric Rowe, who replaced him as the starter one week earlier, Butler finished with three tackles, fared well in coverage and played with a much-needed edge in the Patriots’ 36-33 win over the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium.

“I think I let loose a little bit (Sunday),” Butler said after the game. “I’ve got to do that every game.”

Asked whether letting loose was the goal after spending a few weeks in head coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse, Butler replied: “Yes, sir.”

The highlight of Butler’s performance came when he was matched up one-on-one with Texans No. 1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins on Houston’s final offensive series of the first half. Hopkins caught short passes against him on consecutive plays, but thanks to strong open-field tackles by Butler, those completions totaled just 10 yards, and neither resulted in a first down.

Who knows if Butler, a second-team All-Pro last season, would have reclaimed the starting spot he held for two years had Rowe not been sidelined with a groin injury. But after watching the 27-year-old struggle in the preseason, commit pass interference in the end zone in Week 1 and surrender a touchdown in Week 2, Sunday’s showing was a clear step in the right direction.

“I think I’m building,” Butler said. “I think I’m taking it a step at a time. There’s a lot of football to be played, so whatever you see, judge me.”

Issues remain for the Patriots’ defense as a whole, however, which now has allowed 95 points through three games. Houston, which entered Sunday ranked second-to-last in the NFL in scoring, tallied 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter before Tom Brady won the game for New England with a last-minute touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

“It never fails,” Butler said of Brady’s late-game heroics. “Every time I think it’s going down, it never goes. So I’m just hoping we can keep it up.”

He added: “I was just thinking he was going to come through for us, and he did. Everyone has a little doubt, and you don’t think he’s going to come through every time, but he came through.”

Thumbnail photo via Zack Cox/NESN.com

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