One Coaching Change Bill Belichick Needs To Adopt

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There’s a lot to unpack from the New England Patriots Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins.  Despite outplaying Miami for the vast majority of the game, the Patriots continuously shot themselves in the foot and let a very winnable game slip through their fingers.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

After three and a half quarters of penalties and miscues, the Pats still found themselves in a great position to come away with a victory, or at the very least take the lead late in the game.  Yet, Damien Harris' fumble inside the red zone seemed a fitting end to a game full of missed opportunities. It's unfortunate, because that fumble soured an otherwise solid game from Harris. 

I can't help but wonder if that fumble was avoidable. 

Obviously, hindsight is 20/20 and we'll never know for sure.  But I wonder if fatigue played a factor in Harris' late game cough up.  Let's start with the facts.

Harris set a career high in rushing attempts with 23 this past Sunday.  Add in two receptions and he had 25 total touches, the most he's ever had in a single game.  That includes his four years at Alabama as well.  In his collegiate and professional career, he has only recorded more than 20 rushing attempts one other time, last year against Baltimore when he carried the ball 22 times.  He played 40 snaps on Sunday, six more than his previous high of 34.

The team's running back depth was well documented during the preseason, so much so that they traded away Sony Michel, putting their confidence behind rookie Rhamondre Stevenson.  However, that confidence seemed to disappear quickly after Stevenson fumbled late in the first quarter on Sunday.  He didn't touch the ball again after that play, and I don't believe he saw the field after he got lit up by Elandon Roberts on a failed blitz pickup.  He played just five snaps.

Harris seems like eventually he could be a guy who can handle that sort of workload, but did the Patriots overwork him too soon?  It was week one and a sunny, Sunday afternoon in September.  The preseason was a week shorter.  There was an extra week in between the final preseason game and the regular season.  I think taking all of those factors into account, it's fair to wonder if the conditioning is there yet. 

The only other time Harris rushed the ball more than 20 times came last year against Baltimore.  He didn't fumble in that game, but that game came on a Sunday night in November.  So, not only was the weather a little bit cooler and less taxing physically, but players are likely in better shape at that point of the season. 


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For anybody who has watched the Patriots over the past two decades, they probably had the same thought as I did when Stevenson fumbled; that is, "we'll never see this guy again", because that's typically how it goes with Belichick.  Belichick values ball security so much so that if you can't protect the ball, you take a seat in favor of somebody who will. 

I understand the message being sent, but maybe instead of taking the ball out of his hands permanently, maybe just sit him down for a few series.  I think it's fair to wonder that had Stevenson had a few more touches, and Harris a few less throughout the course of the game, if Harris may have been able to hang onto that ball late in the fourth quarter.  

I think it's time for Belichick to change that philosophy.  If a player fumbles, going right back to them may be the vote of confidence that they need.


Follow Derek on Twitter @mcvay34

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Boston Sports Syndicate: One Coaching Change Bill Belichick Needs To Adopt
One Coaching Change Bill Belichick Needs To Adopt
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