Belichick: Bailey can match up with anybody

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Belichick: Bailey can match up with anybody

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick doesn't like to rank players. He's said that many times before.

But with regards to the best all-around cornerbacks in the NFL, the Patriots coach -- even if he had to rank them -- wouldn't know where to start after Denver Broncos veteran cornerback Champ Bailey.

"He's, to me, one of the few corners in the league that really can match up against anybody," said Belichick on Friday. "He matches up against the Andre Johnson's of the world, the big, strong, physical, fast guys. And then he'll match up against quick, real good route-running quick receivers. It doesn't really make any difference."

The Patriots have many powerful weapons on offense. And if you were trying to guess which one of those weapons Bailey will be covering on Sunday at Gillette Stadium, then good luck. At least, Belichick believes he could be matched up with anyone, even New England's tight ends.

"You can watch him match up against whoever they want to put him on," said Belichick. "Whether it's Mike Wallace, or whether it's Calvin Johnson. Through the years, I'm not just talking about this year. And at times, he's been on tight ends, like when he would be on Tony Gonzalez back in the day, things like that. So, I think he's really capable of being physical, standing in there, and banging with the big guys. He's got enough quickness and length with the little guys, to match their quickness and give them as problem and stay with them. Or if he gets his hands on them and jams them, he can destroy the route right off the bat. He's a very instinctive player, so he has a good sense of what the guy's trying to do, and what his tendencies are, and things like that. So he's on a lot of routes, just because he's experienced and he's smart.

"I'd say there aren't too many corners in the league; it's hard to think of who the next one would be that, like him, could match up as well against any type of receiver," added Belichick. "Some guys do well against some type of players and have a little trouble with another type of guy. It looks to me like he does a pretty good job against everybody."

Butler earns praise from Belichick, Patricia after wire-to-wire performance

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Butler earns praise from Belichick, Patricia after wire-to-wire performance

FOXBORO -- Malcolm Butler left Sunday's win over the Texans feeling pretty good about himself. One week after being relegated to the No. 3 corner role on the Patriots defense, he played every snap and allowed just two catches for 10 yards.

“I think I’m building,” Butler said afterward. “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.”

And we have. There was the pass-interference penalty in Week 1. There was the botched pick-play coverage with Patrick Chung in Week 2. But even with those mishaps mixed in, Butler's energy and effort did not seem to wane on film.

He caught Chiefs speedster Tyreek Hill for a tackle from behind to prevent a first down in the season-opener. Against the Saints, his hard pass breakup on top Saints wideout Michael Thomas was a bright spot for the Patriots secondary.

In Week 3, that effort was there again. Targeted twice while in coverage on DeAndre Hopkins, Butler did well to jam Hopkins at the line of scrimmage and then limit the game's highest-paid receiver to zero yards after the catch.

When asked about Butler on Tuesday's conference calls, both Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia struck tones that were strikingly different than the ones that made headlines when discussing Butler the week prior.

"Yeah, I think Malcolm did a good job," Belichick said. "I mean, all of our defensive backs I thought were pretty competitive. We had some scramble yardage and loose plays and things like that. But I mean, the normal passing game we were pretty competitive on. But like anything else, there are certainly a lot of things we can do better."

That goes for Butler, too, who admitted last week that he hadn't been playing up to his standards.

On one of those scramble-drill plays Belichick referenced, Deshaun Watson found tight end Ryan Griffin for a 35-yard gain, which included several yards after the catch when Butler was among the defenders who missed the chance to try to wrestle Griffin to the ground.

There were occasions though -- like Watson's first-quarter third-down scramble that Butler helped to stop, forcing the Texans to kick a field goal -- when Butler's want-to was evident.

"I thought Malcolm played really well," Patricia said. "We certainly didn’t play great at all as a defense. I’m not saying that but I think the guy really tried to go out and play extremely hard. 

"This is a very competitive guy. Malcolm steps up to the challenges that you place in front of him. He goes out and competes, he works hard, he tries to do it the right way and he really tries to get better every week. Look, we had a productive week last week for him and working through. But it’s a new week and we’re going to try to get the same consistency every single week and that’s what we’re trying to do."

A week ago, when asked about Butler's performance, Belichick and Patricia weren't quite as glowing.

"I don’t think anybody’s performance this season is really where it needs to be or where it will be," Belichick said at the time. "We all need to do a better job."

"I think with Malcolm, he’s kind of in a boat with everybody else," Patricia said. "We’re trying to get better."

Part of the reason Butler may have been relied upon as much as he was could have been due to the fact that fellow corner Eric Rowe -- who started in Week 2 opposite Stephon Gilmore -- was inactive with a groin injury. 

How Butler will factor in against the Panthers in Week 4 remains to be seen, but if his work against the Texans improved his confidence, then that would seem benefit the Patriots defense as a whole. 

"Things that we're confident in," Belichick said, "we do more aggressively, we do quicker, we do with probably better overall execution than things we're not confident in . . . 

"It’s a fine line there between confidence and overconfidence and taking it for granted, as opposed to just being right in that sweet spot of having an edge, having confidence, being alert and aggressive."