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Unfiltered Notebook 11/18: Burkhead shining in key spots

The veteran running back is having his best season yet for the Patriots.


In his fourth season with the Patriots, Rex Burkhead has solidified his role as someone the team can count on in key situations. Long known for his versatility, now Burkhead is showing a key playmaking ability and is having one of the best seasons of his career.

"Really, it just comes down to locking in and focus," said Burkhead of his mindset when his number is called in the big moments. "It's something over time you keep working on, it just doesn't come your first game in the NFL. It comes from years of experience and really understanding you've got to block out all the distractions and just focus on your assignment and your job."

Burkhead and his fellow running backs have formed a devastating attack that ranks third in yards and second in touchdowns, running behind an offensive line and group of blockers that is playing as well as any offense in the NFL.

"They played their tails off," said Burkhead of those blocking in front of him, including fullback Jakob Johnson and tight end Ryan Izzo. "You can definitely tell when they're being the more physical people up front. It just makes our job so much easier running behind those guys. You can tell later in the game when they're really wearing them down and things open up even more."

Not all running back rotations work so well for all the different backs but the Patriots have found a groove in recent weeks, with the hard early-down running of Damien Harris, the key third down contributions of James White and the pick-your-poison balance of Burkhead, who stressed staying mentally tough when your snaps come and go throughout the game.

"You have to stay locked in and mentally focused because once you go in there you could be catching a pass from Jakobi in pouring-down rain," said Burkhead. "You got to be ready for that and let your natural ability take over."

With three touchdowns and 267 rushing yards, Burkhead is closing in on his career highs while being a versatile threat, but the back kept the same focus he's always had.

"I do feel good and I feel like I'm just trying to contribute in whatever way I can," said Burkhead. "Definitely having the guys around me has helped that success out but I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help the team out."

Table inside Article
Stat Patriots (4-5) Texans (2-7)
Overall DVOA 25th 22nd
Offensive DVOA 22nd 15th
Offensive Rushing DVOA 2nd 32nd
Offensive Passing DVOA 25th 11th
Offensive Points 21.0 (27th) 22.2 (25th)
Offensive Third Down 43.1% (13th) 41.8% (17th)
Offensive Red Zone 56.7% (24th) 60% (21st)
Defensive DVOA 32nd 28th
Defensive Rushing DVOA 31st 32nd
Defensive Passing DVOA 30th 22nd
Defensive Points 23.4 (11th) 28.0 (29th)
Defensive Third Down 42.1% (18th) 47.9% (27th)
Defensive Red Zone 60.7% (15th) 60.5% (14th)
Turnover Ratio 0 (t-16th) -4 (27th)
Special Teams DVOA 7th 17th

Webex Quotes of Note

Carl Davis on his impressions of the Patriots before arriving in New England:

"Definitely heard it's a tough program. It's not for the mentally soft, that's what I heard. Coming here it surprised me how much it actually fits my style of play and what I like to do. This is the players, from the training staff, the weight room guys and even practicing, I feel like I'm getting better every week. I feel like I'm learning a lot. My coaches have been great teaching and everything, so I just feel like it's family here already."

David Andrews on offensive line continuity:

"It's been good to get back out there practicing. Obviously I was out for a little while and then didn't have a long time to come back so getting out there and practicing like I said earlier, building my confidence back in myself and in each other. It all starts there. We've got a good group. I'm really proud of the way the group comes to work every day. It's not perfect, practice isn't perfect, there's a lot we could do better each day, but just going out there with the effort and how you approach it makes me really proud of these guys and we just got to keep building on that."

Devin McCourty on getting two-straight wins:

"It's the process. The last two weeks we've had good weeks of practice where I think we're understanding what it takes to win in this league. It's hard early in the season when you're losing and you're still practicing hard, you're trying to get everybody to commit to that and understand that's the reason why you win games. Like anything, it's hard to understand that when you're not winning a game at the end of the day. We were having those kind of hard fight losses, if we could turn those into hard-fought wins it makes it easier to come in each week and practice because you know what the end result means when you put in the work."

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