Thunder and thunder: Patriots RBs Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson a powerful duo

6:00 AM ETMike ReissESPN Staff Writer CloseCovered Patriots since 1997 Joined ESPN in 2009FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With few exceptions over Bill Belichick's 22 years as coach of the New England Patriots, he hasn't relied on a lead running back.Belichick's committee approach has often frustrated fantasy football managers, and as championships are soon to be decided,…

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  • Mike ReissESPN Employees Creator


    • Covered Patriots since 1997
    • Joined ESPN in 2009

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — With few exceptions over Bill Belichick’s 22 years as coach of the Unique England Patriots, he hasn’t relied on a lead running help.

Belichick’s committee advance has on the general frustrated delusion soccer managers, and as championships are rapidly to be made up our minds, it is happening again in 2021. Nevertheless in staunch-existence soccer, the two-is-higher-than-one advance has been a catalyst for the Patriots’ six-sport winning trail as they enter Monday night’s road sport against the Buffalo Payments (8: 15 p.m. ET, ESPN).

The previous two games, particularly, had been telling.

Damien Harris has began. Then on the second series, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson enters the game. Harris takes over on the following series. Then Stevenson.

Or now not it is been a upright series-by-series rotation — Harris ending with 47 snaps performed and Stevenson 42.

“Or now not it is one in every of the upper 1-2 punches within the league,” starting up just sort out Trent Brown talked about. “Both of those guys speed tricky, speed exhausting. And they form us see correct up front.”

They also again rookie quarterback Mac Jones end out of anguish’s system, which has helped him grow. An added bonus: A productive running sport objects up play-motion passing alternatives, the save Jones has been deadly at conditions.

The 5-foot-11, 213-pound Harris, a 2019 third-round purchase from Alabama, leads the Patriots with 154 carries for 643 yards (4.2 life like) and eight touchdowns.

The 6-foot, 226-pound Stevenson, a 2021 fourth-round purchase from Oklahoma, has 76 carries for 351 yards (4.6) and three touchdowns.

“They’re immense. ‘Mondre has come on, particularly the previous few games. Damien has been very constant, however they trusty steadiness every heaps of if truth be told effectively,” ragged tight discontinuance Hunter Henry talked about.

“They’re each gigantic. They each bear colossal vision. Cuts. Lope. They bear got all the pieces you might possibly perchance presumably well desire. They’re catching the ball out of the backfield, too. Or now not it is fun to block for those guys esteem that because of the they form your job a small little bit of bit more straightforward.”

Harris and Stevenson pair with “passing help” Brandon Bolden, who on the general enters on third down. Bolden has stuffed the void created by ragged James White’s season-ending rupture on Oct. 17.

“We now bear got self assurance in all our backs. They’ve all been productive,” Belichick talked about.

ESPN Monday Evening Football analyst Louis Riddick sees all three contributing in heaps of programs.

“Harris objects the tone as a runner with his physicality. Bolden is the one they seem to belief within the passing sport as a ways as safety and consistency as a blocker. And Stevenson is the man who is largely the most proficient by a ways that will seemingly be higher than each of the heaps of two as a runner and receiver,” Riddick talked about. “[Stevenson] has every plan you might possibly perchance presumably well effectively be making an attempt to search out — measurement, trot, agility, hands. He is mild ascending and might possibly presumably well perchance also play a much bigger and bigger and bigger characteristic as time goes on.”

The Patriots enter Monday’s sport averaging 115.3 rushing yards per sport, which ranks 12th within the NFL. Their 4.1 life like yards per breeze ranks 19th, however doesn’t necessarily replicate how the running sport helps them mutter a bodily presence that has become a huge piece of their offensive identity.

“The system they’ve been taking half in is emblematic of the system this whole whole team has been taking half in, with colossal effort, consideration to detail, and executing when your number has been known as,” starting up left guard Ted Karras talked about of Harris and Stevenson. “These two had been a huge piece of why we’ve got had contemporary success.”

Staying novel

Belichick on the general says every resolution he makes is within the ardour of helping the team purchase, and he can display veil 2004 as a luminous instance of his willingness to lean on a lead running help. That became the year Corey Dillon totaled 345 carries for 1,635 yards, which remains the franchise’s single-season record.

There had been heaps of years when loads of the early-down workload trended throughout a single help — corresponding to Stevan Ridley’s 290 carries in 2012, and LeGarrette Blount’s 299 in 2016 — however Belichick has historically liked extra of a committee.

He talked about closing week there is no particular clarification for those selections, which Harris and Stevenson direct they’re embracing.

— NFL (@NFL) November 28, 2021

“Or now not it is been colossal, if truth be told,” Harris talked about. “Obviously rotating keeps guys novel, permits us to retain going accessible to realize and play effectively. Within the rupture, we’re all on this together — all people on this team has a characteristic, all people has a job to retain out. So no topic when your name known as, you’ve got to exit and form a play. We all play for every other.”

Stevenson, a local of Las Vegas who became named mighty offensive player of the 2020 Cotton Bowl after rushing 18 conditions for 186 yards and a touchdown within the Sooners’ 55-20 purchase over Florida, talked about that every-for-one mindset is his popular side of the Patriots.

“I revel in doing it, particularly with my boy Damien. I believe esteem me and Damien complement every heaps of’s sport thoroughly. I comprise it is a pleasant changeup,” he talked about. “And Brandon’s help there as effectively. Or now not it is fun, us all having a shot doing what we elevate out handiest. We all deliver a small little bit of bit heaps of running style to the table.”

Their willingness to share the weight has earned them appreciate from the teaching team.

“They’re if truth be told colossal teammates and work if truth be told effectively together,” assistant running backs coach Vinnie Sunseri talked about. “They’ve stuffed those roles. They embrace it.”

Owning their errors

Harris and Stevenson bear overcome adversity earlier this season to check themselves as a potent tandem.

— NFL (@NFL) October 17, 2021

Harris misplaced a fumble late within the fourth quarter of a gross 17-16 season-opening house loss against the Miami Dolphins when the team became riding for a doable winning salvage. Straight after the game, at a time when some gamers might possibly presumably well perchance need chosen to retain away from speaking with reporters, Harris became front and heart and talked about he would now not let the fumble define him.

Stevenson also fumbled in that sport, and missed a blitz pickup, which ended in his benching for 3 games. He became help within the lineup for two contests, however then became surprisingly indolent Oct. 24 against the Unique York Jets, which running backs coach Ivan Fears hinted became a result of him persevering with to alter to the requires of the team’s exhausting-riding culture. Stevenson has been help the previous 5 games and continues to salvage momentum.

“Each of their eventualities is contemporary and clearly their journeys this year had been very heaps of,” talked about longtime captain Matthew Slater, the team’s longest-tenured player.

“Rhamondre … he’s been coached if truth be told exhausting and I comprise he’s responded thoroughly to it. He’s remained humble ample to receive the teaching and he keeps enhancing. That’s all you might possibly perchance presumably well presumably query from a young player.

“Damien had some tricky breaks early on within the year, however I assemble now not comprise his advance ever modified. … He did a correct job of placing that on the help of him. That’s soccer. Things esteem which are going to occur.”

Belichick referred to Harris and Stevenson as “bigger, bodily guys,” and Jones talked about combining them with a solid offensive line of Isaiah Wynn, Karras, David Andrews, Shaq Mason and Brown is the muse of the offense.

Fullback Jakob Johnson brings a bodily edge when the Patriots insert him into the lineup, and the tight ends — led by Henry and Jonnu Smith — naturally part into the speed-blocking combine.

It has been customary to see Harris and Stevenson steamroll forward, plowing over defenders, that might possibly presumably well perchance also be galvanizing.

“When they’re ending runs esteem that, it trusty makes you wish block a small little bit of bit additional, elevate out a small little bit of bit additional, because of the you realize those guys are ending exhausting,” Henry talked about. “They’ll form performs, so whilst you occur to trusty retain your block a small little bit of bit longer, a huge play can come.”