It was the Butler, in the library, with the candlestick. Actually, it was Adam Butler, on the goal line, with a massive stop. Although most of what Adam Butler did against the Cardinals won’t show on the stat sheet, his contributions are the reason for this Patriots victory. On the field for just 64 percent of the total defensive snaps, he made his impact felt. And no one felt that impact more than Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. For his efforts, Adam Butler wins this week’s Game Ball.
Butler was a disruptive force in the backfield. He had five tackles, including one for a loss, one sack, and three quarterback hits. His strengths are typically eating up blocks and gaps on the defensive line but he fought through multiple double team blocks to pressure Murray. In the third quarter, he was left one on one against left guard Justin Pugh. Butler manhandled Pugh and got a hand up right as Murray threw the pass, tipping the ball into the air. Cornerback Adrian Phillips intercepted the ball and the Patriots took over at the Arizona 31 yard line.
He also dropped into zone coverage on a few plays. Patriots.com lists Butler as 6 foot 5 inches and 300 pounds, so it may seem strange for him to drop into coverage. But one of his best plays came when he played off the line of scrimmage. With 36 seconds left in the first half, the Cardinals had the ball at the Patriots 8 yard line. Butler feinted towards the line of scrimmage and then peeled off into coverage. Murray threw a pass to wide receiver KeeSean Johnson, who caught the ball at the three-yard line and pushed towards the end zone. Butler ran past and put himself between Johnson and the end zone. The referees ruled that Johnson scored a touchdown, but after further review ruled that Butler stopped him just short of the goal line. The Patriots stopped the Cardinals on one more play to end the half.
Adam Butler is filling a gap at nose tackle that the Patriots have been missing since Vince Wilfork left. If he had not made these plays, it’s very likely that the Cardinals would have scored at least once. The Patriots would have dropped to 4-7, and the playoff hopes would have been bleak.
Honorable Mention: Anfernee Jennings. Jennings made a huge (legal) block during what should have been a touchdown on Gunner Olszewski’s punt return. Instead, referee Bill Vinovich and his crew called it a blindside block and penalized the Patriots. In case anyone doesn’t know, Vinovich was responsible for the pass interference no-call during the Saints-Rams NFC Championship Game in 2019. But Jennings made an amazing effort to put himself in front of the defender, who was in a position to tackle Olszewski. Even though it was called back, Olszewski’s return and the block by Jennings boosted the Patriots momentum.
–Travis Baltes is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @TravisBaltes