Pats' secondary coach: Butler 'is never going to give up the fight'

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Pats' secondary coach: Butler 'is never going to give up the fight'

FOXBORO -- Though he’s still fresh-faced, Patriots cornerback coach Josh Boyer has been on Bill Belichicks’ staff for a dozen years, including the last six presiding over the likes of Darrelle Revis, Aqib Talib, Brandon Browner and Logan Ryan. In all that time, he’s never seen anyone play the position as competitively as Malcolm Butler.

“I would say that’s unique,” Boyer told me today. “It’s one of those things that whether something happens right, wrong or indifferent on that play, you know he’s always gonna be competitive. I think that’s an attribute to just his personal makeup . . . I think all of our guys are competitive but Malcolm is never going to give up the fight no matter what stands in his way or what obstacles he has. He’s always going to be competitive.”

Butler had a unsettling offseason that actually traced all the way back to an in-season contract negotiation that came close but never got completed. When that offer remained the same, and then Stephon Gilmore was paid massive dollars on day one of free agency, Butler, a restricted free agent, shopped himself. But with New Orleans and other teams unwilling to pay the price of a first-round pick, Butler decided he had no choice and returned to Foxboro somewhat reluctantly.

"Can't predict the future," Butler said back on May 25. "Whatever happens, happens."

While Butler wouldn’t commit to wanting to be a Patriot long term, he has made every effort to once again establish himself as the team’s best cornerback while not letting an unsettling contractual situation play play havoc with his on-field performance.

“You guys probably talk about a lot of stuff that we never talk about so we’re just, I’ll give Malcolm credit,” said Boyer, “He’s here. He works hard. We don’t ever talk about other outside issues. It’s all football and I think his focus -- I talked to him yesterday when he was in the building -- he’s excited to be back, excited to work, excited to see what this season holds for him.”
 

Five takeaways from Patriots-Texans: Brady does Brady things in last-minute comeback

Five takeaways from Patriots-Texans: Brady does Brady things in last-minute comeback

FOXBORO -- Here are five quick-hitting takeaways from what transpired in the Patriots' last-second 36-33 victory over the Texans:

1) Tom Brady doing Tom Brady things . . . again. After the two-minute warning, Brady marched the Patriots 85 yards for the go-ahead score -- a 25-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks in the front corner of the end zone. A two-point conversion to Cooks made the score 36-33 with just 23 seconds remaining. On the drive, Brady was surgical, finding Rob Gronkowski for 15 yards, Cooks for 18, and Danny Amendola for 27. He was also strip-sacked on the drive, but David Andrews corraled it and Brady found Cooks for the score three plays later. 

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2) Brady says he doesn't often feel sore anymore, but Monday might be a different story. The Patriots quarterback was knocked around early and often by the Texans front, including on his first pass of the game. Despite a jarring hit from linebacker Bernardrick McKinney, Brady hit Cooks for a long gain down the right sideline. Brady was sacked five times (including three strip sacks) and hit on multiple other occasions. JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney and Christian Covington all got a piece of Brady at one point or another. The Texans pass-rush came in as advertised. When Brady did get some time, he found receivers down the field. Brady had six completions of 20 yards or more, including long touchdowns of 47 and 42 yards to Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks, respectively. He threw for four touchdowns in all, giving him 27 regular-season games with at least four touchdowns, third-most all-time behind Peyton Manning (35) and Drew Brees (31).

3) Rob Gronkowski looked just fine after last week's scare in New Orleans. One of the bright spots for New England's offense was that their All-Pro tight end had yet another strong performance despite dealing with a groin injury. He caught 8 passes for 89 yards, and several of those yards came after contact thanks to broken tackles. Gronkowski also boxed out safety Corey Moore for a touchdown at the goal line.

4) Deshaun Watson put his toughness on display throughout the course of the game. The rookie quarterback hit on throws despite taking hits from the Patriots on a consistent basis. He hit tight end Ryan Griffin on three passes -- two for key first downs and one for a touchdown in the third quarter -- despite absorbing contact as he threw or immediately after. He also pulled a Houdini act late in the fourth quarter to allude multiple Patriots defenders and hit running back D'Onta Foreman for a 34-yard gain. Watson's  accuracy is still an issue at times; he had Braxton Miller open on third down and plenty of time to throw with a little over seven minutes left in the game, but he missed him badly. Still, what Watson showed in terms of his toughness and athleticism was impressive.

5) Gilmore gets his first pick as a member of the Patriots, but it was an up-and-down day for the corner who's one of the 10 most highly-paid corners in the league. Gilmore gave away 34 yards on a pass-interference penalty in the first quarter that got the Texans into Patriots territory and helped lead to a field goal. Midway through the second quarter, Gilmore picked up another costly flag as he hit DeAndre Hopkins near the sideline and was hit with a 15-yard unnecessary roughness call that helped lead to another Texans field goal. In the third quarter, Gilmore left the game briefly as he was dehydrated. 

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