There is a line from a classic country music song by the late Kenny Rogers. It says: “You have to know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away, and know when to run.”
Clearly, New England Patriots running back Damien Harris didn’t know when to ‘fold ’em’ at the end of his final rush against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Struggling to get an extra yard or two, while engaged with multiple Miami Dolphins tacklers, Harris had the ball stripped.
The Dolphins recovered and were able to salt away the rest of the clock en route to a narrow 17-16 win over the Patriots in Gillette Stadium. What made the fumble all the more difficult to stomach was the fact that it took place while the Patriots were already in a position to take the lead on a relatively short field goal.
The turnover took that opportunity off the board, and the Patriots’ defense couldn’t get the ball back from Tua Tagovalioa and the Dolphins’ offense. During a media presser, Patriots running back coach Ivan Fears didn’t pull any punches. Fears said:
No. 1, in that situation, you’ve got to understand the situation. The journey was over. We didn’t need much more. He wasn’t fighting for a first down. The second it was over, protect the ball with both arms and get what you can get and let’s go down. The journey’s over. We got what we needed there. See what I’m saying? Let’s eat some clock and play the game. That was the thing to hit on with that one. I didn’t get a chance to — we were moving the ball, he was on the field. I didn’t get a chance to give him any help on that.
All was not lost after the game.
Damien Harris Was Otherwise Spectacular
The fumble hurts, and it id cost the Patriots the game. However, Harris had a great game on the ground. He ran the ball 23 times and ironically, the 24-year-old hit the 100-yard mark on the play that he fumbled.
If you take that play off the board, Harris had about as good of a performance as you can expect to see from a running back. Perhaps that’s why Fears still clearly believes in Harris’ ability to bounce back from a tough error.
“I feel confident Damien is going to step up to the plate on this. I really do. We have not had a problem with him, so I think we’ll be alright. I really do.”
At this pace, Harris would become eclipse the Patriots’ all-time record for rushing yards in a season. It is currently 1,635 yards and was set by Corey Dillon in 2004.
Harris Wasn’t the Only Running Back With Ball Security Issues
Rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson also had a crucial fumble. His mishap took place in the first quarter, and because he’s a rookie, coaches may not be as lenient with him.
In fact, after his fumble and being destroyed on a pass-blocking assignment, Stevenson was benched the rest of the game. It wouldn’t be a shock to see J.J. Taylor get some of the reps that were planned for Stevenson in Week 2 against the New York Jets.