The Patriots offense had a busy day on Sunday running their second-most plays of the season against the Jets in Week 17 (80, excludes penalties).
The high-volume of offensive snaps did produce heavier workloads for some depth players on the team, but the biggest takeaway from a playing time perspective on offense was that the Patriots’ starters played a significant amount of the snaps with home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs on the line in Week 17.
In fact, it wasn’t until six minutes to go in the fourth quarter that Tom Brady gave way to backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, Dion Lewis played a season-high 52 snaps, and the wide receiver and offensive line usage was what you’d expect in a blowout victory any other week.
The only exception to this was tight end Rob Gronkowski, who sat most of the second half after playing his usual workload in the first half.
There were two depth players on the Patriots’ roster that saw an uptick in playing time.
First, in his third game with the Patriots, wide receiver Kenny Britt played 29 snaps despite playing just 11 snaps in his first two games combined.
Second, running back Brandon Bolden logged 34 snaps against the Jets in Week 17 with running back’s Rex Burkhead (knee) and James White (knee) both inactive due to injury.
Despite being a core special teamer, Bolden had only played eight snaps on offense before Week 17.
Although the Patriots’ defense was only on the field for 59 snaps, a season-high 22 players saw the field against the Jets on Sunday.
Headlining them all was the newest addition to the team in linebacker James Harrison.
Harrison played 27 snaps for the Patriots in Week 17, which was more than half the total snaps he logged in the first 16 weeks of the season with Pittsburgh (40).
The former Steeler played 22 snaps at right outside linebacker, four snaps at left outside linebacker, and one snap at slot corner in Week 17.
Harrison had a successful debut for the Pats closing out the team’s 26-6 win over the Jets with back-to-back sacks and forced a Bryce Petty fumble on one of those sacks.
Along with Harrison, the Patriots got another boost in their linebacking corps as Kyle Van Noy returned to action after a three-game absence due to a calf injury.
Van Noy played sparingly in his return, logging just 12 snaps, but the fact that he was healthy enough to be active bodes well for his status moving forward.
Finally, as apart of the season-high 22 players that saw the field on defense, the Patriots opened up the bench in a significant way for backups Jonathan Jones (21 snaps), Nicholas Grigsby (14 snaps), and Johnson Bademosi (12 snaps).
Jones and Bademosi have played significant roles on defense in the past, but for Grigsby, Sunday was the first time he saw the field on defense this season.