Super Bowl 2018: Ex-player says Patriots had 'locker room divided' before game

Nick Foles was the Super Bowl LII MVP and for good reason. He threw three touchdowns, caught another, and played a near-flawless game. But there's an argument that Patriots coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia were most valuable to the Eagles. Because if they hadn't decided to bench cornerback Malcolm Butler -- Butler, and the man who replaced him, Eric Rowe, didn't find out about it until right before kickoff -- New England may have won its sixth Lombardi Trophy.

Instead, the Eagles took advantage of Butler's absence and exposed the Patriots' secondary all night.

After the game, Belichick said the decision to bench Butler was strictly about football. Patricia, who will be named the LIons head coach in the coming days, was asked repeatedly about Butler's benching and all he could do was repeat a talking point that made little sense.

For some context, Butler played 1,038 snaps during the regular season, roughly 97 percent of the Patriots' total defensive snaps. Rowe, meanwhile, was on the field for just 261 snaps. And while Butler didn't have a great 2017 campaign -- he even characterized it as a "sh---y season" -- he graded out much better than Rowe; Pro Football Focus ranked him 48th among all NFL cornerbacks; Rowe was 188th out of 209.

But in the Patriots' biggest game of the season, Belichick and Patricia decided he suddenly was worse than Rowe. There has to be more to this. 

Meanwhile, former Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner, who won a Super Bowl with the team three years ago in their improbable victory over the Seahawks, posted this to Instagram Sunday night:

"A locker room divided pregame, most yards ever given up in a Super Bowl game, and your best defender over the past three seasons doesn't get a snap. You were hurt/burnt where he was needed tonight," Browner wrote, adding the hashtag #foolishpride.

Butler, who was emotional before the kickoff and wore his helmet on the sidelines during the game, was confused why he never got on the field

"They gave up on me. F---. It is what it is," Butler said, via ESPN.com's Mike Reiss. "I don't know what it was. I guess I wasn't playing good or they didn't feel comfortable. I don't know. But I could have changed that game."

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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