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Torch is passed to Dion Lewis as Patriots' lead RB

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots have had a significant shift at running back in the past three games, with Dion Lewis emerging as their No. 1 option over Mike Gillislee.

This was again highlighted in Sunday’s 21-13 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, as Lewis played 30 snaps to lead all running backs. It marked the third straight week that Lewis was either tied or led all Patriots running backs in snaps played.

Lewis has played 29, 26 and 30 snaps over that span; Gillislee has played 13, 13 and 13.

That has been a significant turn from the first five games of the regular season and leads off this week’s snap-count analysis:

Offense: 86 (season high)

Defense: 56 (season low)

RUNNING BACK

Dion Lewis -- 30

Rex Burkhead -- 27

James White -- 20

Mike Gillislee -- 13

The Patriots had 97 yards on 32 carries (3.0 average), with this group making a bigger mark as pass-catchers. As for the rotation, Burkhead is coming on a few series into games and making his mark as a dual threat. In his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI, quarterback Tom Brady said, “It’s a great group. If [opponents] are going to drop back and play zone defense and give our guys some space, our guys can make a lot of yards. If they come up and start taking those guys, we have to hit the guys behind them. It’s just cat-and-mouse game all day, and they gave us some opportunity to get the ball to the backs and those guys really came through for us. No way we win without their production.”

FULLBACK

James Develin -- 29

This was a season high for the lead-blocking fullback, whose previous top mark was 24 (three times). The Patriots have been using more two-back sets the past three weeks, as Develin has played 24, 24 and 29 snaps. In the three games prior to that, he went 15, 16 and 13.

TIGHT END

Rob Gronkowski -- 86

Dwayne Allen -- 20

Jacob Hollister -- 4

Gronkowski has now played 80.5 percent of the offensive snaps this season, which moves him up a tier in his enhanced contract from the offseason. He is now eligible for a bump up to $8.75 million if he keeps up the pace. Allen is still looking for his first catch this season.

WIDE RECEIVER

Brandin Cooks -- 82

Chris Hogan -- 75

Danny Amendola -- 32

Phillip Dorsett -- 8

Matthew Slater -- 4

Slater’s presence, which is most often reserved for kneel-down plays, was different from the norm as he was utilized on a few more traditional plays in which his strength as a blocker was tapped in hopes of springing an outside run.

OFFENSIVE LINE

LT Nate Solder -- 86

LG Joe Thuney -- 86

C David Andrews -- 86

RG Shaq Mason -- 86

RT LaAdrian Waddle -- 51

RT Marcus Cannon -- 35

Cannon left late in the second quarter with an ankle injury; Waddle replaced him and was competitive. Waddle plays light on his feet for a big man (6-foot-6, 315 pounds). This group hung in and didn’t allow Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa to ruin the game. Afterward, they noted how the Chargers bringing a safety into the box challenged them on some of their run-blocking assignments.

QUARTERBACK

Tom Brady -- 86

He has played all 594 offensive snaps this season.

LINEBACKER

Kyle Van Noy -- 56

Elandon Roberts -- 40

David Harris -- 21

Marquis Flowers -- 8

Trevor Reilly -- 3

Harris bull-rushed running back Melvin Gordon to create up-the-middle pressure on the play in which Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers fumbled and recovered. Of the linebacker usage, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, “All of those guys contributed -- they were all involved in different groups, played different roles. We were a little light on the defensive line -- three tackles and ends. We had a little more depth at linebacker in this game -- five plus Brandon King -- so guys helped supplement the front with the depth that we were missing on the defensive line.”

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Lawrence Guy -- 32

Alan Branch -- 26

Adam Butler -- 23

One thing that helped this group was the limited snaps played on defense (56), so they weren’t asked to do too much given the shortage of personnel.

DEFENSIVE END

Trey Flowers -- 47

Deatrich Wise Jr. -- 34

Cassius Marsh -- 28

Flowers continues to be disruptive, with one of his best pressures coming on the Chargers' final drive, when he rushed from an interior position. The Patriots are thin at this position, which makes Flowers' health one of the most important things for the team.

CORNERBACK

Malcolm Butler -- 56

Johnson Bademosi -- 56

Jonathan Jones -- 16

Butler’s hustle to try to chase down Gordon on an 87-yard touchdown run stands out, although Butler didn’t get a strong enough jam on Travis Benjamin on Benjamin’s 24-yard touchdown catch and appeared to have a communication breakdown on the play as well. Still, this group was competitive and made plays on the ball in 50-50 situations.

SAFETY

Devin McCourty -- 56

Patrick Chung -- 51

Duron Harmon -- 50

Jordan Richards -- 13

Chung’s versatility stood out -- similar to the Oct. 5 game in Tampa -- as he was sometimes covering slot receivers and other times assigned to the tight end. McCourty appeared to take a bad angle on Gordon’s 87-yard touchdown run while Harmon was turned around, which were two of several miscues on the play.