FOXBORO -- Say this for Malcolm Butler: Since his rookie season he's proven time and again to be an utterly resilient player.
Go back to Super Bowl XLIX. He was beside himself on the sidelines after Jermaine Kearse somehow came up with an acrobatic grab on a pass he deflected in the fourth quarter. Moments later he was back on the field to make the play of life.
Against the Jets on Sunday, he had to make another -- albeit less dramatic -- turnaround.
Early on, it wasn't pretty. He allowed a third-and-long conversion when he played well off of Robby Anderson during a first-quarter touchdown drive. He allowed 31-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley when he made a bad gamble to try to break up the throw.
Yet without Butler's interception at the end of the first half, and without his strip of Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the fourth quarter, the Patriots might be 3-3 headed into a Super Bowl rematch with the Falcons.
The competitive streak that Butler has exhibited to make game-changing moments regardless of what has happened earlier in the game is something that Bill Belichick has grown accustomed to.
"Since the first rookie minicamp," Belichick said. "He’s a very competitive player, whatever it is. Practice, games, trash ball in the locker room. Whatever it is. He’s a very competitive player."
Earlier this season, in Week 2 against the Saints, Butler was briefly demoted to the No. 3 cornerback role. After the fact, he was open about how he wasn't playing up to his own lofty standards. Since then, he's been the only regular for the Patriots at his position as Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe have dealt with injuries.
It's been far from perfect, as moments like his breakdowns during the Jets game exhibited. But his aggressiveness rarely wanes. Even during down moments in the Patriots locker, apparently.
The brain drain in New England after this season may not be quite as severe as it once looked like it might be.
According to ESPN, the Cardinals have chosen to hire Panthers assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Steve Wilks as their next head coach. That would mean that Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, a finalist for the job in Arizona, will shoot to the front of the line of candidates to succeed Matt Patricia as Patriots defensive coordinator. Patricia is expected to be named Lions head coach after Super Bowl LII.
For the Patriots, holding onto Flores would be a significant boost to their coaching staff in 2018.
The team is also expected to lose Josh McDaniels, who could be named head coach of the Colts after the season. Special teams coach Joe Judge is working on an expiring deal, per ESPN, and could be elsewhere next season as well. Then there's offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who will be 70 later this month and could be interested in going back to the retirement life he enjoyed for two years in 2014 and 2015 before returning last season.
Flores, 36, has been with the Patriots since 2004. He's served as a scouting assistant, a pro scout, a special teams assistant, a defensive assistant and safeties coach (2012-2015) before taking over linebacker duties. As our Mike Giardi wrote earlier this month, Flores is highly-respected by Patriots players and would make all kinds of sense as the team's next defensive coordinator.
Matt Patricia was on his back, laying in confetti, his son sitting alongside, soaking up the last few moments of the night. It was well after the Patriots had defeated the Jaguars to claim their shot at Super Bowl LII, and Patricia probably knew it was his last game at Gillette Stadium as Patriots defensive coordinator.
Every week, in conference calls with reporters, Patricia adheres as strictly to the "on to fill-in-the-blank" as anyone. But on Sunday night, more than two hours after the game had ended, he was very much living in the now.
"After the game had kind of settled down and everything," Patricia said Monday, "I had my son here at the game, he hasn't really been to a lot of games -- he's been to two -- so that was kind of his second game. He wanted to go play on the field.
"We played a good game of touch football. He beat me 4-0. He kind of out-ran me there a little bit. He made some good plays on me, I couldn't catch him. Just fun to have him out there running around and just seeing the excitement that he had to be out on the field. Kind of a special little moment for myself and him and my wife."
Patricia is expected to be named the next coach of the Detroit Lions, which will mean a new city, a new chapter for his family after he spent the last 14 years in New England under Bill Belichick. Before that happens, he'll have one more game with the team that gave him his first job in pro football. And maybe a shot at a rematch with his son.
"He's pretty good," Patricia said. "I mean, he's pretty quick. I might have to try to get in better shape before that happens. We'll see. We'll see what happens. I might have to take the physical game to him."