The game ball goes to running back Rex Burkhead in this one.
Burkhead delivered an all-around performance making key contributions on both offense and defense, but the surprise scratch of fellow running back Mike Gillislee created the opportunity for Burkhead in the Patriots' backfield. Burkhead played a season-high 36 snaps and has seen an uptick in playing time since returning from injury in Week 7.
However, Burkhead wasn't the only player in the Patriots' backfield to see more playing time against the Broncos.
The Patriots opted to go heavy on Sunday night with fullback James Develin tallying a season-high 45 snaps. Develin's usage continues to rise as the Patriots have morphed the offense into a power-run unit over the last few weeks.
In terms of pass catchers, there are two performances of note from a playing time perspective on offense.
First, in his return to New England tight end Martellus Bennett logged 7 snaps. Bennett caught three passes for 38 yards in his return, including a 27-yard reception in the first half.
Second, with Chris Hogan inactive due to injury, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett played a season-high 49 snaps. Dorsett had just two catches for 16 yards in those 49 snaps but was one of just three Pats wide receivers to see the field along with Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola.
Finally, the Patriots did indeed empty the bench a bit on offense on their final possession of the game. Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, fourth tackle Cameron Fleming, running back Brandon Bolden, and center Ted Karras all saw time in the blowout win.
Stephon Gilmore returned from a concussion in Week 10 and got his starting cornerback spot back immediately. Along with fellow defensive backs Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty, Gilmore played the entire way for the Patriots' defense.
In all, Gilmore allowed four receptions on seven targets for 39 yards and a touchdown in a difficult matchup with Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas. There are always ways to improve for any player but this should be considered a positive performance for the big-money cornerback.
Also of note, the Patriots experimented a bit at the linebacker position as they try to replace Dont'a Hightower.
Linebacker David Harris has played 39.5% of the snaps on defense over the Patriots' last three games after playing just seven snaps in the teams first six games. Harris has held his own both against the pass and run, and had a nice pass breakup against the Broncos.
Linebacker Marquis Flowers also saw a surprising amount of playing time against the Broncos, logging 20 snaps, his second-most in a game this season.
Lastly, newly signed defensive tackle, and Dunkin Donuts lover, Ricky Jean Francois helped fill the void left my Malcom Brown's injury with 11 snaps in his first game as a Patriot.
As you'd expect, Alan Branch and Adam Butler also played more than their typical workload in Brown's absence as well.
(h/t Pro Football Focus: https://www.profootballfocus.com/products/elite#edge)