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Downs, distances, personnel groups and results behind Mike Gillislee’s three-TD Patriots premiere

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Mike Gillislee found the end zone on three occasions Thursday night.

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Mike Gillislee has rushed for 11 touchdowns since Oct. 9, 2016.

He’s appeared in 12 games over that span.

It’s a track record that puts the 26-year-old New England Patriots running back in good company, as in the past calendar year of regular-season NFL football, only Melvin Gordon, Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, LeSean McCoy, Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson and LeGarrette Blount have also crossed the goal line for double-digit scores on the ground.

Gillislee got kickstarted a little later than most of whom.


  • LeGarrette Blount – 18
  • David Johnson 16
  • Ezekiel Elliott – 15
  • LeSean McCoy – 13
  • Devonta Freeman – 12
  • Latavius Murray – 12
  • Mike Gillislee – 11
  • Melvin Gordon 10

Gillislee had just three rushing touchdowns on his NFL resume prior to the Buffalo Bills’ 30-19 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5 of the 2016 campaign. It was then that the former fifth-round pick by way of the Florida Gators, Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals handled two carries for six yards and the first TD of his Bills tenure.

It was then that the scoring spree began.

And the spree didn’t end on Thursday.

In New England’s 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Gillislee got the call early and also in short yardage. He answered with two first downs as well as the first three-touchdown performance of his career.

Gillislee had one two-TD game last season with Buffalo. But out of I-formation and “23” personnel from fullback James Develin, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen, a subbed-in LaAdrian Waddle and a tackle-eligible Nate Solder, he broke new ground.

He often had to do so in tight quarters, too.

The Patriots were in two- or three-tight end personnel for 11 of Gillislee’s runs and went without a lead blocking back on only four occasions, leaving little a secret.


  • ‘11’ – two carries
  • ‘12’ – one carry
  • ‘13’ – one carry
  • ‘22’ six carries
  • ‘23’ five carries

Even so, Gillislee managed to account for a total of 15 handoffs, a Patriots-best 45 yards and all three of the team’s touchdowns by game’s end.

“Yeah, Mike ran really hard,” quarterback Tom Brady told reporters afterwards, via “We're going to need that all season from him. He ran hard.”

Not all of Gillislee’s hard running proved lucrative; he lost four yards on one run and couldn’t surpass the line of scrimmage on three others. But considering when and where the 5-foot-11, 219-pounder factored into the Patriots’ gameplan, that comes with the territory.


  • Second-and-2, Kansas City two – touchdown
  • Fourth-and-1, Kansas City 10 – no gain
  • First-and-10, New England 25 – three yards
  • Second-and-6, New England 22 – four yards
  • First-and-10, Kansas City 36 – 16 yards
  • First-and-10, Kansas City 20 – nine yards
  • Second-and-1, Kansas City 11 – four yards
  • First-and-7, Kansas City seven – two yards
  • First-and-2, Kansas City two – touchdown
  • First-and-10, New England 28 – two yards
  • Second-and-8, New England 30 – minus-four yards
  • Second-and-10, New England 25 – four yards
  • First-and-1, Kansas City one – no gain
  • Second-and-1, Kansas City one – touchdown
  • Fourth-and-1, Kansas City 40 – no gain

Gillislee drew eight attempts on first down, five attempts on second down, zero attempts on third down, and failed two attempts on fourth down. He had seven chances with two yards or fewer before the either sticks or the plane. And he saw 10 of his opportunities take place on the Chiefs’ half of the 50-yard line, with eight inside the 20 and five in goal-to-go situations.

So while Gillislee was out-snapped by James White – and while fellow newcomer Rex Burkhead got the start – there was a clear-cut purpose in place for the restricted free-agent acquisition. There was volume.

He touched the ball on 62 percent of the plays he was in for.

Expect that to be the case moving forward.

Gillislee, who signed a two-year, $6.4 million offer sheet in April after leading the league in yards per carry as an understudy last season, looks like the Patriots’ equivalent of a lead back.

A “big” back.