GLENDALE, Ariz. – For a player who started practice this week with little more than special teams duties expected of him, Malcolm Butler was pretty busy with the media following Super Bowl XLIX here last night.
Title-clinching interceptions tend to intrigue the folks with post-game microphones.
Butler, the rookie free agent out of West Alabama, turned his own personal fairy tale into one New England football fans will be spinning for generations to come. With time running out and the Patriots desperately hanging on to a 28-24 lead, Butler stepped in front of Ricardo Lockette on a slant and snatched Russell Wilson's missile away from the intended receiver, preserving the fourth title in Patriots' history, literally at with their backs to their own goal line.
“And Malcolm, what a play for a rookie to make, a play like that to win us the Super is just unbelievable,” said Tom Brady.
Count the miracles that put Butler on the field, starting back in August.
A handful of nice plays against future salesmen and accountants kept the 5-11, 190-pounder in camp to the final cuts.
And somehow, he earned a spot on the 53-man roster.
What Butler did do was stay healthy, playing 11 regular season games and both playoffs, mainly due to his work in the kicking game.
But last night's insertion into the game on defense in the second half could hardly have been expected.
The Pats secondary seemed pretty set. And Butler wasn't in the plans. But Chris Matthews of Seattle put in a strong big for Super Bowl MVP, torching the likes of starter Kyle Arrington and reliever Logan Ryan for 4 catches and 109 yards.
Butler was, at best, a reach, with the Pats' defensive coaching staff reaching for answers.
“I've worked so hard in practice, and I just wanted to play so bad and help my team out,” said Butler. “I got out there and did exactly what I needed to do to help my team win.”
So to the final minute loomed, and Butler, believe it or not, seemed set to be fit with goat horns.
Seattle had a first down at the Pats 38, and Russell Wilson saw Butler on Jermaine Kearse and attacked.
Butler made a decent play in coverage, swiping at the ball, but it just wouldn't find the turf. On his back, Kearse batted at it and pulled it in, good for 33 yards at the Pats' five.
“I got beat but I didn't get beat, I broke the ball out, it somehow landed in his hands,” said Butler.
At this point, you figured Seattle to put the championship in Marshawn Lynch's hands.
He did once, with Akeem Ayers saving a title at the two.
But for some reason on second, Seattle tried to pass.
“Make a play, that's all I was thinking,” said Butler. “I knew that formation, they'd try to pass. They use that stack to try and set a pick.”