FOXBORO, Mass. — Some assorted notes and nuggets from the New England Patriots’ 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at Gillette Stadium:
— This was one heck of a comeback for Adam Butler.
After missing last week’s loss to the Houston Texans with a shoulder injury — the first DNP of his four-year NFL career — Butler was the Patriots’ best defensive player Sunday, repeatedly harassing Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray.
Butler’s final stat line: one sack, two additional quarterback hits, two tackles for loss, one pass breakup (which resulted in an Adrian Phillips interception). His sack came on third down, as did his batted pass.
“Just going into this game, I felt like it was important to get vertical in the pocket and make (Murray) feel uncomfortable,” Butler said in a postgame video conference. “So my goal the entire game was to affect him. I’m just glad everything worked out.”
It certainly did. This was a dominant performance from a player who’s lacked pass-rushing production this season.
Over New England’s first nine games, Butler tallied zero sacks and eight total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. At the same point last season, he had 4 1/2 sacks and 17 pressures.
After his Week 12 breakout, Butler acknowledged he hasn’t felt like his usual disruptive self as he’s worked to shake a nagging shoulder injury. That ailment sidelined him last week and has limited him in practice for much of the season.
“I’ve had some challenges throughout the season,” said Butler, who tallied a career-high . “It’s no secret I’ve been dealing with a shoulder injury, and I’ve just been fighting like hell to get back. It’s really tough to be yourself when you’re in a position like that, for anybody.
“So I was really pleased with my performance today, and it’s all about the team. It’s all about getting wins here, and I know everybody’s counting on me to step up and do my job.”
Head coach Bill Belichick was pleased, too.
“We missed Adam last week,” Belichick said. “Adam did a real good job of penetrating the inside part of the pocket. I think that certainly helped our pass defense, not just the sack but some disruptive plays in there. Just made it a little tougher for them to execute the passing game.
“He did a nice job. He’s good at that. He’s good at penetrating the inside part of the pocket. When we have that for him, it makes a big difference for our defense in those passing situations.”
— The Patriots finished with just 179 yards of total offense. According to Pro Football Reference, that’s tied for their third-lowest total ever in a game they won.
The 2010 Patriots also managed 179 total yards in a win over the San Diego Chargers. The two other instances came during the pre-Belichick era: 167 yards against the Buffalo Bills in 1970 and 151 against the Baltimore Ravens in 1999 — the final game of Pete Carroll’s Patriots tenure.
— Quarterback Cam Newton’s 84 passing yards were a single-game career low, as was his 23.6 passer rating. He threw two interceptions — snapping a streak of four straight games without one — but did have a key third-down rush that helped set up Nick Folk’s game-winning field goal.
Three of Newton’s four lowest passing yardage totals have come this season.
— Receivers Jakobi Meyers (five catches, 52 yards) and Damiere Byrd (three catches, 33 yards) provided 85 of Newton’s 84 passing yards.
No, that’s not a typo. Newton’s only other completion was a short pass to James White that lost a yard. N’Keal Harry finished without a catch on three targets and was flagged for holding.
— The Patriots and Cardinals have a knack for nailbiters. Each of their last three meetings has been decided by a game-winning field-goal try in the final minute.
The first two were unsuccessful, with Stephen Gostkowski missing in a Patriots loss in 2012 and Chandler Catanzaro missing in a Cardinals defeat in 2016. Folk, who also has a 51-yard game-winner on his record this season, nailed his as time expired.