By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Malcolm Butler is being paid like a top-tier cornerback in Tennessee, but Malcolm Butler is not playing like a top-tier cornerback in Tennessee.
Tennessee fans are getting used to seeing Butler fruitlessly give chase to receivers destined for the end zone, as the corner was burned for two more touchdowns Monday night in Tennessee’s 28-14 win over the Dallas Cowboys. It wasn’t exactly a high-powered offense that beat him in Dallas, either. With those two scores against Butler, the Cowboys now have a grand total of 10 passing touchdowns this season.
The first touchdown Butler gave up came against new Dallas receiver Amari Cooper, who juked him out of his shoes at the four-yard line and then beat him to the end zone.
The second touchdown was much worse, as Allen Hurns broke Butler’s ankles with a fake cutback before turning on the jets and beating him up field. He casually strolled into the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown. The score tied the game at 14-14 ahead of halftime, and according to NFL Next Gen Stats, it was the sixth time this season Butler has been the nearest defender on an opposing score. Only Rams corner Marcus Peters has more with seven such plays.
That’s pretty much how the entire season has gone for Butler, who currently ranks as the 82nd cornerback on Pro Football Focus. Opposing teams have been making a point to pick on him, and Butler hasn’t been able to do much about it.
Now Butler has to try to slow down Tom Brady’s surgical attack with New England heading to Tennessee in Week 10. Patriots fans know Butler as a smart player who went all-out on every play, much more than just a one-hit wonder. After making his epic game-saving pick against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, Butler rose up the Patriots’ depth chart to assume their top corner spot. He played hard and always put up a fight against some of the league’s top receivers, and usually got the better of them. But that has not been the case in Tennessee, and the Patriots will become the latest team to pick on the struggling corner Sunday afternoon in Tennessee.
There are still a lot of questions as to why Bill Belichick benched Butler in Super Bowl LII back in February, but Butler is starting to provide a little more light on that mystery. Given how Butler has played the first nine weeks of his Titans career, Belichick’s decision nine months ago isn’t as baffling as once perceived.