Malcolm Butler’s Other Super Bowl XLIX Plays

By this point everyone has seen Malcolm Butler’s final interception against Russell Wilson to end the Super Bowl, but how did he play in his other snaps? This breakdown will show you that outside of his interception, Butler was phenomenal sticking to his receivers in man-to-man coverage making plays all evening.

Play 17
Situation: 2nd and 8 at SEA 47
Description: Q3 – (1:54) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right to J.Kearse to NE 47 for 6 yards (M.Butler).

Offense Formation: Shotgun Slot Left Far
Offensive Grouping: 11
Defense Formation: Cover 1, Four LB zones, CBs in man-to-man coverage

CB21 Butler lines up on the right outside covering WR15 Kearse in bump-and-run coverage. Kearse runs a hitch route to New England’s 44 yardline breaking inside. Butler plays inside technique on Kearse tightly but slips at the top of the route allowing Kearse separation for the reception.

Play 18
Situation: 3rd and 2 at NE 47
Description: Q3 – (1:12) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass incomplete deep left to J.Kearse (M.Butler).

Offense Formation: Empty-Set Shotgun Trips Left Double Right
Offensive Grouping: 11
Defense Formation: Cover 1, Two LB zones, CBs in man-to-man coverage

Butler lines up across Kearse and plays press man coverage jamming Kearse at the line. Kearse runs a wheel route to the outside and slips by the initial jam. This is actually a design rub route play to get Kearse open. TE82 Willson runs a slant route from Kearse’s left to interfere with Butler’s coverage, but Butler gets by.

Even though Butler doesn’t get picked, he is still a full step behind him as Kearse makes his way to the left sideline.

Wilson lobs the ball to Kearse in stride, but Butler makes an incredible diving grab to not allow Kearse to bring the ball in. Just an incredible play to stop a big gain.

Play 20
Situation: 1st and 10 at SEA 20
Description: Q4 – (7:55) R.Wilson pass incomplete deep middle to R.Lockette.

Offense Formation: Singleback Slot Right
Offensive Grouping: 12
Defense Formation: Cover 1, Two LB zones, CBs in man-to-man coverage

WR83 Lockette runs a deep crossing route over the middle as Butler turns following him in man coverage. Butler trips as Lockette cuts inside. Butler falls and reaches out tripping Lockette to the ground. Lockette throws up his hands knowing he was interfered, but the referees don’t throw the penalty flag.

What most don’t understand was that this was a great play by Butler not because he didn’t get penalized. This is a great move, because Butler knows he is going to get burned and instead of allowing a 40+ yard play he only allows a maximum of a 15 yard play due to the spot foul of a defensive pass interference penalty. This is a veteran move by the rookie corner.

Play 23
Situation: 1st and 10 at NE 49
Description: Q4 – (1:55) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass incomplete deep right to J.Kearse (M.Butler).

Offense Formation: Shotgun Trips Right Far
Offensive Grouping: 11
Defense Formation: Cover 2, Three LB zones, man-to-man on trips right formation

Butler lines up in off-man coverage against WR15 Kearse who runs a seam route over the middle of the field. Kearse starts outside and jukes back inside in an attempt to gain separation. Butler sticks on Kearse and times his jump to swat the ball out of Kearse’s hands perfectly.

Another incredible play by Butler.

Play 26
Situation: 1st and 10 at NE 38
Description: Q4 – (1:14) (No Huddle, Shotgun) R.Wilson pass deep right to J.Kearse pushed ob at NE 5 for 33 yards (M.Butler).

Offense Formation: Empty-Set Shotgun Double Slot Left and Right
Offensive Grouping: 01
Defense Formation: Cover 1 Robber, Man-to-man coverage

This is the last passing play before Butler’s interception. This is also the play where Kearse helps set up the Seahawks for a potential game winning situation.

As you can see Butler has great coverage of Kearse but an unfortunate leg bounce causes the completion. Butler doesn’t get discouraged and forces Kearse out of bounds.

Overall, Butler was incredible even outside of his game winning interception. ProFootballFocus gave Malcolm Butler a score of +3.8 with +3.3 coming from passing plays in just 12 passing snaps. Very impressive for the undrafted rookie from West Alabama. Hopefully next season he will continue to develop and will be the Patriots nickle cornerback alongside teammates Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis.

Samuel Gold

Sam founded NFL Breakdowns after working his way through the journalist farm system and is enjoying life in the big league. Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., Sam didn’t choose the Redskins, the Redskins chose him. Out of a love for the game and an insatiable curiosity to determine why his beloved team was underperforming, Sam turned to studying film in NFL Breakdowns.