Super Bowl LII: Just how much did New England Patriots lose sans Butler and Cooks?
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Bill Belichick's legacy is in decent shape regardless of Super Bowl LII, perhaps the most breathless offensive game in Super Bowl history, resulting in the Eagles' first Lombardi trophy, not New England's sixth.

Still, when Eagles backup Nick Foles eviscerates the Patriots 'D' for 373 yards, 4 total TDs and MVP honors; when everyone from RB Corey Clement to slot WR Nelson Agholor runs free at times in New England's burnt-toast 'D;' when the Patriots inexplicably bench Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler on defense, it's more than fair to question Belichick's "coach's decision," particularly after he maintains it had nothing to do with disciplining Butler and everything to with putting together the team's best defensive game plan.

Butler's a disgruntled impending free agent, so unless he did something that promises to trash his value on the open market, we expect to find out the truth on one of Super Bowl LII's more critical (and most curious) personnel decisions, even involving the infamously tight-lipped Belichick.

Meantime, it's worth noting that, after Tom Brady, the two Patriots non-O-lineman who played the most snaps in 2017-18 leading up to Super Bowl LII according to Football Outsiders were WR Brandin Cooks (1,058) and Butler (1,040).

In other words, Butler was cemented in every game plan —regardless of the offense the Patriots were going up against. On the biggest stage and facing one of their toughest tests, Belichick wants us to believe Butler wasn't as good of an option as Eric Rowe, who played less than one-quarter of Butler's snaps in the first 18 games this season, including running as the clear No. 3 behind Stephon Gilmore and Butler in the AFC title game two weeks ago.

It's frankly impossible to believe. Even if somehow, someway that emerged as a possibility in practice this week, at some point during the Eagles' 41-point, 538-yard bombing, wouldn't one expect Belichick to consider, you know, getting a healthy Butler in the game to try and stop the bleeding?

As for Cooks, who was knocked out Sunday early in the second quarter with a concussion, his absence was obviously uncontrollable. It also makes Tom Brady's epic performance that much more outrageous, with him being virtually unstoppable in consecutive title games without his two leading receivers, respectively.

This article originally ran on profootballweekly.com.

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