Malcolm and AB have seen a lot of each other since the interception heard round the world. The two squared off in Malcolm's first season as a starter, 2015, on opening weekend. Then twice last year, in the regular season the yoffs. They even filmed a Visa commercial together. This Sunday we get the next round.
So far, the Pats have been victorious in every meeting. Malcolm certainly hopes to continue that trend, but he admits it's going to be a challenge against AB. Here is the excerpt from the Reiss article on ESPN.
“Great player, [but] we have to play well as a team. It’s not just Antonio we have to worry about,” Butler said after the team’s walk-through practice Wednesday.
Asked how Brown challenges him, Butler said, “He challenges everyone. Everybody will have the opportunity to be on him, not just me. You just have to play good football.”
Reiss notes that after a wild off season full of speculation, Malcolm's play has been up and down this year. He's still a work horse, playing almost every snap, but he hasn't been as consistent as he was the last two years. He's going to need one of his better games of the season on Sunday to keep AB in check.
Let's take a look at how Malcolm has fared in this mini rivalry so far.
2015 Regular Season week 1:
Patriots win 28-21 at home
AB line: 9 catches, 133 yards, tuddy
That's a monster game on paper. But if memory serves about 40 of those yards came on the last drive of the game with under two minutes and the Steelers down two scores. AB scored with like 4 seconds left. I'm not saying Malcolm wasn't trying, but I am saying he contained him well all night when the game was still up for grabs.
2016 Regular Season week 7:
Patriots win 27-16 at Pitt
AB line: 7 catches, 106 yards, 0 tuddies
Another high volume game for Brown, but Butler was able to keep him out of the end zone in a semi low scoring affair for the Steelers which was the difference.
Patriots win 36-17 at home
AB line: 7 catches, 77 yards, 0 tuddies
In a game where the Steelers lost Bell early, you'd think they would turn to AB to dig them out of the hole. Well maybe they tried, but there was Malcolm shoveling more dirt on them. His best effort against AB in a small sample size helped the Pats move on to the Super Bowl.
So in three games, AB has 23 catches, 316 yards, and 1 tuddy against Butler (and the Pats). That's a lot of yards and a lot of catches, but holding someone who is a major threat to score out of the end zone like we have is a huge accomplishment. It's almost a microcosm of the Pats D in general. Give up volume but tighten up in the red area.
If we're being honest, I think these stat lines are really the best you can hope for. I know you never want to wave the white flag, but with how good AB is and how often Ben targets him I don't think you're ever going to shut him out. And Malcolm is right. It's not just him that's going to be covering AB.
I think this is a game where Gilmore earns his paycheck. He is going to get JuJu on the other side on an island. Malcolm is going to get safety help over the top. This means he can get in AB's face and jam him on the line. Then when AB runs past him, Malcolm goes into trail technique, which basically means he is just chasing AB up the field with his back to the QB. Then when AB breaks inside or outside Malcolm's job is to break with him and rip his head around. Then he can break up the pass or pick off an under throw. If it's a double move and AB turns up field again it isn't of Malcolm's concern because Duron Harmon will be coming through to rip that lego haired idiot's head off.
As long as we don't give up the big scoring plays to AB I'll live with the 7/8 for 70/80 all day kid. Malcolm says he's up for the challenge. With the one seed on the line, he better be.