Burkhead's knee injury could open the door for Gillislee


With just over nine minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Patriots lost yet another offensive weapon.

Rex Burkhead stayed on the turf after running for a two-yard gain to the Steelers 6-yard line, and he was quickly ruled out for the rest of the game with a knee injury.

When the announcement comes down that quickly that a player is out, it's typically an indication that he's dealing with something serious. But according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, the Patriots and Burkhead may have dodged a bullet.

Burkhead has been an important piece of the New England offensive attack ever since returning from a rib injury that forced him to miss Weeks 3-6. A true run-pass option, he's run for five touchdowns -- serving as the team's top option at the goal line of late -- and he's caught three others. 

On the season Burkhead has 30 catches for 254 yards, and he's carried 64 times for 264 yards. He's also used on Bill Belichick's kick-coverage units, contributing in the phase of the game where he was most frequently used by the Bengals during his first three seasons in the NFL. 

If Burkhead is forced to miss the last two games of the regular season, that could open the door for Mike Gillislee to find the field again. Gillislee has been scratched from the active game-day roster since the Patriots returned from their Week 9 bye. He was on the injury report one week due to an illness, but for the most part he has been a healthy scratch on game days. 

With Burkhead missing for most of the second half in Pittsburgh, Dion Lewis ended up playing a season-high 35 snaps and finished with 13 carries for 67 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

Even if Gillislee is activated next week, Lewis would likely remain the lead back. But as a bigger back, Gillislee could potentially get the nod as the goal-line runner. The 5-foot-11, 219-pounder ran for four touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season. 


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