Why didn’t Patriots play Malcolm Butler at all on defense?

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A starter all season, Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler (right) curiously did not play one snap on defense in Super Bowl LII.

Three years ago after he picked off Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on the final play of the Super Bowl, Malcolm Butler was the toast of the town. Today, the Patriots cornerback has fans wondering why he didn’t play in New England’s 41-33 loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII.

The Eagles and quarterback Nick Foles racked up 538 total yards of offense, 378 of it through the air.

Even Butler, who played almost every snap during the regular season, was stunned to find out moments before the game that he wasn’t starting and could be seen crying during the national anthem.

Here’s what Butler told ESPN after the game:

They gave up on me. F—. It is what it is. It was a coach’s decision. … I don’t know what it was. I guess I wasn’t playing good. They didn’t feel comfortable. I could have changed that game, though. I was just doing my job supporting my teammates. I had nothing but great things to say about the organization. Great organization. They gave me the opportunity.

In place of Butler, the Patriots opted to play 25-year-old Eric Rowe, who had just 10 regular-season and two postseason starts for New England over the past two seasons.

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Butler, who was sick earlier in the week, was used on special teams but didn’t play one snap on defense.

When asked about the decision at halftime, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said: “I made the decisions that give us the best chance to win.”

Rowe, who had the coverage for Alshon Jeffery’s 34-yard touchdown catch early in the game, said he had no idea he was starting until just before the game.

Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said it was more of a matchup decision.

“We just played all the guys we could to try to help us win in whatever packages we had,” Patricia said. “Different situations came up, and we were just trying to move some things around. … We just had a situation where we had some matchups and packages that we went with.”

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