Butler: Sanders had edge in battles until Sunday

Butler: Sanders had edge in battles until Sunday

Emmanuel Sanders couldn't get away from Malcolm Butler. Left side of the formation, right side of the formation, in the slot. No matter where Sanders lined up, Butler wasn't far. 

Dealing with a hip injury that limited him in practice last week, Butler was able to keep Sanders close after the snap too. Denver's top receiver -- and one of its only hopes to move the football thanks to a meager running game -- finished with just three catches for 48 yards. 


‚ÄčThat the Broncos struggled as much as they did offensively was due in large part to what the Patriots, and Butler in particular, were able to do on Sanders. 

For Butler it was a welcome result against a receiver with whom he's quite familar. Last season he allowed Sanders to make five catches for 62 yards in the AFC title game and gave up four grabs for 84 yards in a Week 12 regular-season loss. 

"I came here a couple times, and he handed it to me a couple times," Butler told Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran after winning, 16-3. "I'd say he had an upper edge on the battle up until today. But great guy. Love him. Just came out here to compete."

The Patriots threw multiple looks at Sanders and fellow Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas (seven catches 91 yards) throughout the game. They played both man and zone. They played press at the line of scrimmage and then bailed deep. And even when the Broncos motioned Sanders away from Butler, they struggled. 

That's exactly what happened on the first play of the second quarter when Sanders motioned from quarterback Trevor Siemian's right all the way to the left side of the formation, positioning him across from Logan Ryan. On the third-down-and-three play from the Patriots 14-yard line, Ryan decided to sit at the first-down marker and read Siemian's eyes. Had Sanders broken deep for the end zone, Ryan appeared to have little in the way of help. But he guessed right. 

Siemian was late with the pass, and Ryan easily stepped in front for his first pick of the season.

"He threw a similar route to me earlier and, it was third down, I just felt like I wanted to play the sticks a little bit and play flat-footed," Ryan said. "I went with my gut and it paid off."

Ryan had some fun with reporters after the game, reminding them that the Patriots defense was questioned throughout the course of the season and, as he saw it, written off in some corners. 

Now, through 15 weeks, the Patriots have allowed the fewest number of points in the league.

"People doubted all year. They said we sucked," Ryan said. "And we heard about [the Broncos] secondary and their defense so we wanted to come out here and prove something."

By going on the road and limiting one of the best receiver duos in the league, they did just that. 

What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

The Patriots have made a trade with the Raiders to acquire receiver and special teamer Cordarrelle Patterson, according to a source. The deal, first reported by Pardon My Take, is an interesting one because it lands Patterson with the team that passed on the opportunity to draft him back in 2013. 


Bill Belichick dealt the No. 29 overall pick to the Vikings that year in exchange for four selections, including a second-rounder and a third-rounder. The second-rounder became Jamie Collins, and the third became Logan Ryan. The Patriots also took Josh Boyce with a fourth they received in the trade, and the fourth pick (a seventh) was traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for LeGarrette Blount. The Vikings took Patterson. 

Patterson's career to this point has been a mixed bag. One of the top athletes in the 2013 draft, the Tennessee product never quite panned out as a go-to No. 1 receiver. He has not missed a game in five seasons, but he has never cracked 600 offensive snaps in a single season. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has turned himself into more of a gadget receiver as well as one of the game's best special teamers. 

Here's what the Patriots are getting in Patterson . . . 

TOP-TIER SPECIAL TEAMER: Patterson has solidified himself as one of the NFL's best kick-returners. In five seasons, he's ranked as the top returner in terms of average yards per return three times. He's never been outside of the top 10 in the league in that category. Last year he was sixth in the NFL with a 28.3 yards per return average. Patterson has also become a highly-effective gunner on punt units, a role he thrived in once he embraced it, and he has kick coverage experience. Patterson has not been a punt-returner. He has just one punt return under his belt compared to 153 kick returns. Patterson has been named a First-Team All-Pro twice for his work in the kicking game. 

INCONSISTENT RECEIVER: Patterson has never been able to take his explosiveness and translate that into consistent production offensively. He's not thought of as a precise route-runner, and he has a reputation as a "body-catcher." Yet, because he's so dynamic with the ball in his hands, offenses in Oakland and Minnesota have found ways to get the ball in his hands. He'll align in the backfield, take reverses and catch screens just to try to get him the ball in space where he can let his natural abilities take over. If he gets a crease, he can create a chunk play in a blink. 

THE COST: Patterson is in the second year of a two-year deal he signed with the Raiders last offseason. He has a base salary of $3 million and a cap hit of $3.25 million. The Patriots will be sending a fifth-rounder to the Raiders and getting a sixth-rounder back. (As an aside . . . The Patriots have used one fifth-round pick in the last six drafts. It was spent on long-snapper Joe Cardona. Why are they constantly dealing fifths away? Inside the Pylon's Dave Archibald did an interesting piece on that topic about a year and a half ago. The gist is that a) there's a significant drop-off in your chances of finding a star in the fifth compared to the fourth, and b) the talent in the fifth round, by some metrics, hasn't proven to be all that different from the sixth or seventh rounds.) 

THE FIT: Patterson is a relatively low-risk acquisition because of his cap hit (which on the Patriots slots him in between Shea McClellin and Chris Hogan) and because of the draft capital required to nab him. Trading for a player like Patterson as opposed to signing another team's free agent has the added benefit of not impacting the compensatory-pick formula. Patterson also fills a few needs. His abilities as a kick-returner will be more than suitable with last year's primary kick returner for the Patriots, Dion Lewis, out of the mix. What Patterson can do as a gunner and in kick coverage will also be useful with Johnson Bademosi now elsewhere. There's also a chance Matthew Slater plays in a different city in 2017, in which case Patterson's contributions as a gunner and in kick coverage could be critical. With Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman and Hogan all established in the Patriots offense, Patterson won't be expected to take on a heavy role in the Patriots offense. However, if he can pick up a new system, perhaps he could take on a role as a No. 4 or 5 wideout who benefits from plays designed to get him touches in space. Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett and Kenny Britt -- now alongside Patterson -- will all be competing for time in New England's offense. Former Patriots coaching assistant Mike Lombardi seems to believe it's unlikely Patterson contributes offensively


Patriots acquire WR Cordarrelle Patterson in trade with Raiders

Patriots acquire WR Cordarrelle Patterson in trade with Raiders

The Patriots have acquired wide receiver and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson in a trade with the Raiders, NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry confirms.

Pardon My Take, a podcast by Barstool Sports, first reported the news.

Ian Rapaport of NFL Network reports the Patriots sent a fifth-round pick to Oakland and received a Raiders' sixth-rounder along with Patterson.

More to come...