BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots signed Rex Burkhead for his versatility as much as anything, and he finally showed it on Sunday night in Denver.
The ex-Bengals running back had his best night of the season so far, making the most of his 13 touches with 63 total yards and a receiving touchdown. But his biggest play of the night by far was his block on Broncos punter Riley Dixon, which set the Patriots up for an easy three points and continued to shift the momentum in their favor. It was the moment that Burkhead proved his worth as a solid all-around football player and not just another running back.
Burkhead was happy to quiet the typically loud Broncos faithful as the Patriots’ dominant special teams play allowed them to put a stranglehold on the Broncos and quiet the Mile High crowd for good.
“Denver, like you said, is a tough place to play and they’re a great team, great defense, and so anything to change the momentum of the game we were trying to do and our special teams played great in all phases,” Burkhead said during a conference call on Monday. “Whenever you can have plays like that to really take the crowd out of the game, it helps. I remember early in the game, Tom [Brady] was really having to yell in the huddle to get those plays to us, and later on, he didn’t have to do that so much just because it wasn’t as loud. It was definitely beneficial for us.”
Burkhead’s workload has steadily risen since returning in Week 7. He’s played 13, 27, and 36 snaps in his last three games, according to Pro Football Focus. He admitted that he has had to make adjustments with his off-field routine in order to be prepared for a role that looks like it will only continue to rise.
“You know, I have [made adjustments], actually, just doing some things on the side just to make sure I’m in good shape and staying on top of the conditioning, just because you never know what your workload could be or how the game goes or whatnot, especially playing at high altitude [in Denver],” Burkhead said. “I’m just staying on top of that. Moses [Cabrera] does a great job with us in the strength and conditioning department here, so just making sure I’m on top of that, like I said, because you never know how many snaps you may play, so you’ve just got to be ready.”
The Patriots have continued to heavily employ their deep stable of running backs in the passing game, and Burkhead is gradually becoming a bigger part of it. But he also reminded fans of the impact he can have in that less heralded third phase of the game.