Most improved: Running game or defense?

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Most improved: Running game or defense?

The Patriots did two things really well on Sunday that they didn't do in more than spurts last season: run the ball and defend well.

Mike Felger likes the way the Pats ran the ball, saying that it not only helps the offensive line who is still working on protecting Brady, but it also takes pressure off of Brady.

Andy Gresh notes that it makes the Pats much more complimentary in terms of the pass and the run together.

But is a run game the missing ingredient to a Super Bowl win? Or is it defense? Most likely, it's both.

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.”