Malcolm Butler

Devin McCourty debunks Malcolm Butler Super Bowl benching narrative

Devin McCourty debunks Malcolm Butler Super Bowl benching narrative

What would Super Bowl week be without mention of Malcolm Butler?

The undrafted cornerback famously helped the New England Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX with a goal-line interception. Three years later, Bill Belichick relegated Butler to the bench in New England's Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, a decision that remains one of the great mysteries of the Patriots' modern dynasty.

We still don't know why Belichick didn't play Butler in that game. But veteran safety Devin McCourty attempted to clear up the debate of when Butler was benched during an interview Friday with 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich."

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"I hated when all of this came out," McCourty said from Radio Row in Miami, "because everybody was like, ‘They found out a day before or in the locker room.’

"Nah, everyone knew that (Butler wasn't going to play) going into the game. That wasn’t the way we practiced."

When asked point-blank when he knew Butler wasn't going to play, McCourty responded, "The whole Bowl prep."

"For anybody that’s been in the New England area, do they really think we took the field and didn’t prepare like that wasn’t already the plan?" McCourty added.

In fact, many people did think Butler's benching was a last-minute development --- considering teammate Eric Rowe told reporters "that wasn't the plan" and Butler himself said he wasn't given a reason why he didn't play.

McCourty told NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry right after the game -- a 41-33 Patriots loss in which Nick Foles threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns -- the Patriots knew going in that Butler wouldn't play.

McCourty walked back those comments a few weeks later, saying he and his teammates knew Butler wasn't going to start but didn't know he wouldn't play.

Based on what McCourty said Friday, though, his initial remarks were accurate: He and his teammates were aware the entire week that Butler wouldn't be a major factor.

Case closed -- unless Belichick decides to finally enlighten us on the whole matter. (Don't hold your breath.)

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The most memorable Boston sports moments of the decade

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

The most memorable Boston sports moments of the decade

The New England sports scene has been quite eventful over the last 10 years. In an effort to let your thoughts be heard, we took to social media to see which memories stood out the most: 

Here’s what you said: 

1. “This is our f--king city, and nobody gonna dictate our freedom.”

In a moment that transcended sports, David Ortiz took the mic at Fenway Park to proclaim that Boston would not back down despite the terrorism it faced during the 2013 Boston marathon bombings. 

Fast forward to the 2013 ALCS, Ortiz would hit a grand slam in Game 2 that tied the game in the eighth inning before a Jarrod Saltalamacchia over the Tigers. The Red Sox would eventually go to win the World Series at home.

If you want to re-live more of the 2013 Red Sox team, here’s a fun story about that squad and their beards from our Camera Guys.

2. Isaiah Thomas’ 53-point performance on late sister's birthday

On April 15, 2017, Isaiah Thomas' sister, Chyna Thomas, died in a car accident at the age of 22. Her passing had a big impact on Isaiah Thomas, but he continued to play for the Celtics during their playoff run.

On May 2, 2017, Thomas put forth one of the greatest single-game efforts in Celtics postseason history. He dropped 53 points on the Washington Wizards and scored 29 combined in the fourth quarter and overtime to lead the Celtics to victory.

The significance of that day? It was Chyna's birthday.

Following Thomas' epic performance, Thomas gave a heartfelt interview and said of his performance, "The least I can do is go out and play for her."

And Avery Bradley said of the effort: "That's what Isaiah Thomas does, he's special."

The C’s would eventually make it to the Eastern Conference finals where they lost to LeBron James and the Cavs in a five-game series.

3. Malcolm's Butler's Super Bowl-clinching interception... and his Super Bowl benching

Perhaps no Patriots player has experienced higher highs and lower lows in a Super Bowl this decade than Malcolm Butler

In Super Bowl 49, Butler was the hero for the Patriots, as his iconic interception of Russell Wilson on the goal line sealed the deal for the Patriots and gave them their fourth Super Bowl title.

 

However, in Super Bowl 52, Butler was inexplicably benched for the game despite being the Patriots' best cornerback. He played a grand total of one snap and it came on special teams in the team's 41-33 loss to the Eagles.

Much has been made of the decision to bench Butler in the time since then, but in truth, only Bill Belichick holds the answer. And every time he was asked about it, it was a dead end.

4. The Patriots 28-3 Super Bowl 51 comeback vs the Atlanta Falcons

With the Falcons up 28-3 on the Patriots past the midway point of the third quarter, Arthur Blank and the Falcons front office looked pretty happy and confident that they had things wrapped up.

The Patriots, however, had other ideas.

The team came storming back behind strong efforts from the defense, Tom Brady, and James White. Eventually, they were able to force overtime for the first time in Super Bowl history and White managed to find the end zone.

That play gave Brady his fifth Super Bowl title, the most of any quarterback in NFL history, and it also gave the Patriots the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.

5. Patrice Bergeron’s series-winning goal in Game 7 vs. the Canucks

The 2011 Bruins went on a big-time run full of long, thrilling series en route to their first Stanley Cup since 1972. They took the Vancouver Canucks to Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final and Bergeron's series-winning goal secured the cup despite the Bruins being on the road.

Honorable [Twitter] mentions: 

The 2008 Celtics because apparently a few of you struggle with math. It’s ok, I do too sometimes. 

@SRubinroit: Meb [Keflezighi] winning the 2014 Boston Marathon a year after the bombing. @KGBligh agreed.

@shane5361: “Drafting Jaylen Brown.” We’ll just skip over the part when some people booed Wyc for announcing that pick. 

@BostonSport12: “Kyrie Irving, the whole thing”

Honorable IG mentions: 

@itsryanotoole: “When the Revolution beat the Red Bulls in New Jersey 2014 nothing else Is even close & if you think so you don’t know one thing about SPORTS OR BOSTON.” @dan_faynstein 2014 agreed by saying, “revs playoff run”

@truth_seek3r369: “A rookie Jayson Tatum putting lebron james on a poster 🔥” Legend has it that he was only 19.

There are so many moments that it really feels unfair to just pick one as you can see from this thread from @MikeDynon:

Instagram user @alexdonn41 sums it up best, “Perhaps all of our sports teams doing great over the past 10 years?”

*mic drop*

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @NBCSBoston and at @NBCSCeltics, @NBCSPatriots, and @NBCSRevs on Twitter for your team-specific needs!

Patriots fans will get a kick out of this clue on 'Jeopardy!'

Patriots fans will get a kick out of this clue on 'Jeopardy!'

If you were a Patriots fan watching Jeopardy! on Tuesday night, chances are you got a good laugh out of one of the clues. If you were a Seahawks fan watching, well... to the contrary.

Jeopardy! trolled Seattle by bringing up a certain play that will go down as one of the most memorable Super Bowl moments in NFL history.

Of course, the clue refers to the Malcolm Butler interception in the final seconds of Super Bowl XLIX that sealed an improbable Patriots victory. If Seattle simply had used Marshawn Lynch to run it in from the one-yard line than attempting a quick slant pass, history probably would have been written a little differently.

Yeah, it's safe to say the Seahawks won't ever live that one down.

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