New England Patriots: Burkhead and Lewis turning into a two-headed monster

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 26: Rex Burkhead
FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 26: Rex Burkhead /

The New England Patriots have two dynamic running backs in the backfield in the form of Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead.

Call them “Dion-osaurus Rex” – Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis are turning into a two-headed monster in the New England Patriots backfield by establishing a consistent, dynamic presence that will be a key part of the team’s Super Bowl push.

New England’s 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 was certainly a disappointing way to start the year, but one of the few positive aspects of the game was recently-signed running back Mike Gillislee’s three touchdown performance.

At the time, it appeared as though Gillislee had the potential to be the team’s lead back and to put together a 10+ touchdown season reminiscent of LeGarrette Blount’s time in New England.

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Eleven weeks later, Gillislee has gone three games without even receiving a carry. However, the Patriots backfield is certainly in great hands thanks to the work of a different newcomer as well as a familiar face.

Burkhead Boosting the Pats Offense 

Rex Burkhead quickly established himself as a pass-catching threat with 41 receiving yards and a touchdown during New England’s Week 2 victory against New Orleans, but he was injured in this same game and was forced to miss time until Week 7. The team slowly worked him back into the offense after his return, and his 51 total yards per game and 3 total touchdowns since the team’s Week 9 bye are evidence that he has now claimed a significant role in the backfield.

Burkhead’s  put all of his offensive talents on display on Sunday against the Dolphins during what was arguably his best game as a member of the New England Patriots organization. His 2-yard touchdown run on the team’s first drive gave them a quick lead, and a 1-yard touchdown catch on an out route in the middle of the 2nd quarter put the Dolphins in a hole that they couldn’t recover from:

Along with his receiving and running talents, Burkhead’s special teams play has been a massive addition to the Pats all season, and it was highlighted by his blocked punt during the Patriots Week 10 win over the Broncos.

Dion is as Elusive as Ever 

New England fans have been used to seeing Dion Lewis’ shifty running style for a few years, but it has been a while since he has had as consistent of a presence on the ground as he has now. Miami’s run defense was absolutely exploited by Lewis, who needed a mere 15 carries to rack up a career-high 112 yards on the ground.

Lewis has received double digit carries during every game since Week 6, and he has certainly put them to good use during that span by rushing for 399 yards on a robust 5.1 yards per carry average. He is also always a  threat to take a kickoff to the house for a TD (as he did against the Raiders last week), and while he has not been used too much as a receiver this year, he demonstrated his ability to make clutch plays on catches with a skillful touchdown grab and run last week:

Preparing for the Stretch Run

It certainly seems like these two running backs have taken control of sizable roles in the backfield, but they need to make sure that they hold on to the ball and stay in coach Belichick’s good books every single week (remember Jonas Gray’s monster game and subsequent benching a few years ago?).

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We also shouldn’t forget about James White, who can be a pass catching maestro when called upon during crunch time. Still, the two backs are adding an exciting element to the offense on a weekly basis and are poised to be vital parts of another deep playoff run for the Patriots.