FOXBORO -- As safety Duron Harmon emerged from the showers following the Patriots 23-7 win over the Falcons, he noticed a crowd gathered by his locker. As one of the captains of the team - and a man nicknamed by teammates as “The Voice” because of his ability to articulate the right words at the right time, the affable safety is a must listen postgame. But for a change, Harmon knew the mass gathering of media wasn’t there for him - at least not yet. We were there for Malcolm Butler, who had just played his best game of the season.
“You all want to talk to Malcolm?” Harmon sang. “I’d want to talk to Malcolm too.”
Devin McCourty got in on the act as well with some good-natured chirping in Butler’s direction. Both safeties were energized by the victory but also, it seemed, by the performance of a player they’ve come to rely on in games just like this.
- Jones suggests Falcons comeback attempt hampered by fog
- Butler credits improved Patriots defense for 'playing smarter'
- Curran's Patriots-Falcons preview/review
- Best and Worst: Patriots 23, Falcons 7
- Patriots put it all together against Falcons
- Curran: Good to see team play to their capability
- Brown: Bademosi has been an upgrade over Stephon Gilmore
“Awww man, Malcolm. . . Malcolm was great for us,” said Harmon later. “We need that.”
It's hard not to draw the parallel between Butler having his best performance of the season a week after making two of the biggest plays in the game against the Jets. He did all this while the man who indirectly caused so much of the 28-year old’s troubles - Stephon Gilmore - hasn’t been able to play because of a concussion. Meanwhile, an undrafted player in his 6th year, Johnson Bademosi, has emerged opposite Butler to play very sound football.
“Communication,” said Butler of the team’s defensive improvements. “Just playing smarter and better. That’s all.”
Butler himself didn’t want to spend much time analyzing his own performance. That’s usually not his thing. And it wasn’t as if that performance was perfect. Far from it. But Butler’s energy was evident right from the jump. He stuck his nose in there on running plays to his side, including a terrific submarine tackle of Tevin Coleman in the opening quarter. Butler also got his fair share of Julio Jones over the course of the night. Even though he surrendered that late touchdown to the Falcons wideout, he showed not only a willingness to play the big dog, but to go right at him. That is - after all - a Butler trademark.
“Just competing,” said Butler. “Great player; you just got to compete.”
It’s not just competing, but it’s playing with confidence, something Butler said was an issue for him in the aftermath of his snap reduction in New Orleans. But now? That seems long gone and hard to find.