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[PD]: Opportunity arises, and Butler pounces
Opportunity arises, and Butler pounces
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
GREEN BAY, WIS. — Veteran cornerback Jerametrius Butler hadn't suited up in the regular season, and he wasn't supposed to play Sunday, either. Yet Butler not only wound up on the field, but his fumble recovery in the final seconds saved a 23-20 Rams victory.
Fate, Butler agreed, is unpredictable. "Yeah, it's funny," Butler said. "Anything can happen."
Because of injuries, the Rams were forced to shuffle, and reshuffle, their secondary against Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. They were short-handed from the outset, with right cornerback Fahkir Brown sidelined with an ankle injury. That led to these moves:
— Rookie Tye Hill started in Brown's spot, and Butler — among the inactives for the first four games — was moved up to the 45-man roster.
— Safety Jerome Carter assumed Hill's role as the fifth defensive back in passing situations.
— Safety Corey Chavous slid inside to cover the slot receiver in the nickel alignment. "It's been awhile," said Chavous, a cornerback when he entered the league nine years ago.
— Seldom-used Ron Bartell took over at left corner when first-teamer Travis Fisher went out midway through the second quarter with a groin injury.
— Butler got his chance when Bartell left with a strained calf late in the third period.
"I felt comfortable," said Butler, a starter in 2003 and 2004 before a knee injury cost him the entire '05 season. "Favre's still the guy. If you give him time, he'll kill you. We did a pretty good job. We didn't have any interceptions, but we had a key turnover toward the end."
It occurred in the final minute, with Favre guiding the Packers toward the end zone and victory, or at least a field goal that would have brought on overtime.
But on second-and-10 at the Rams' 11-yard line, defensive end Leonard Little stripped the ball from Favre's grasp, and it bounded away. Packers guard Daryn Colledge had a clear shot at the recovery, but as he plopped on it, the ball spurted out.
"He kind of dove on it with all his weight, but as you know, offensive linemen, they don't usually have good hands," Butler said. "I hopped on it and covered up the best I could. Guys were trying to take it out and punch me in the ribs, but I held on to it."
One kneel-down by quarterback Marc Bulger and the NFC West-leading Rams had stunned the Packers and the second-largest crowd (70,804) in the storied history of Lambeau Field.
"You've got to feel good for" Butler, running back Steven Jackson said. "He's been in the doghouse, and you don't ever know how a guy's going to respond. For him to come in and make a big play like that, I'm just so happy for him."
Butler noted the contributions of others who also filled in. "We have a lot of guys that can play a lot of positions," he said. "If somebody goes down, anybody can step up."
Said Bartell: "We're a cohesive unit, and we've got veterans like Corey who have brought a lot of leadership."
Hill, the team's first-round draft choice, was far from satisfied after his first NFL start. Favre targeted him, and Hill was victimized several times, most notably on a 46-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings with 6:42 remaining that pulled Green Bay to three points back.
"It was a good team win, and I'm glad about that," Hill said. "But I'm disappointed in the way I played. I need to re-evaluate myself, really."