By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots offense was not very good in Kansas City on Monday night. Most of that had to do with some suspect quarterback play from Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham.
But there were a few bright spots on an otherwise dismal offensive evening, and no spot was brighter than running back Damien Harris. The second-year back made his 2020 debut after starting the season on IR with a broken finger, and Bill Belichick threw him right into the belly of the beast, giving Harris the start against the defending Super Bowl champs.
The 2019 third-round pick out of Alabama did not disappoint, rushing for 100 yards on 17 carries in New England’s 26-10 loss. The only disappointing aspect of his big game was that it ended in a loss for the Patriots.
“There’s a lot of emotions coming out of that game. First and foremost, we didn’t win the game and that’s what is most important,” Harris said after the defeat. “We didn’t play well enough and that was disappointing. There are a lot of things to work on. But it was exciting to be back out there with the guys. It’s been a long time coming and I look forward to playing with the team for a long time now.
“It was an honor to be out there,” he continued. “The o-line blocked their butts off today, opened up some holes and made life easy for me.”
Harris’ big highlight on the night came in the third quarter, when he ripped off a 41-yard run just before the end of the third quarter. The big back found a gigantic hole created by the Patriots offensive line and took full advantage, racing past a handful of Chiefs defenders before stepping out of bounds at the KC 25-yard line. Four plays later, Stidham hit N’Keal Harry in the end zone for New England’s first touchdown of the night.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 6, 2020
It was a wonderful scamper by Harris, but he knows that he needs to keep improving if he wants more opportunities. While he averaged 5.9 yards on those 17 carries, his 41-yard run gave that figure a massive boost. On the flip side, 10 of his carries went for three yards or less.
Harris said he’ll be spending the upcoming week looking for ways to get better as he prepares for the Denver Broncos.
“We just need to get ready [for the Broncos] and clean up our mistakes,” he said. “We don’t have any time to dwell on this game. A new opponent and a new challenge. We’ll watch the film, there will be things to correct and things to improve on, but once we make those corrections it’s on to Denver.”
Harris said that whether or not he gets even more run in Week 5 is up to Belichick, Josh McDaniels and running backs coach Ivan Fears. But with Sony Michel out until November, the opportunity is there for Harris to grab and run with.
The 23-year-old was essentially red-shirted by the Patriots in his rookie season, appearing in just two games and getting just four carries. He was on the field for 23 snaps on Monday night, according to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, with his carries diminishing late in the game as the Patriots shifted to a more pass-heavy attack.
But Harris has finally received his first real taste of what it’s like to be featured in an NFL offense. And after a season of sitting and waiting, working hard on improving every aspect of his game, he’s determined to keep moving forward.
“I think I’ve grown as a player. Coming into this year I had the mentality to do whatever I could to make this team successful,” he said. “Last year, I didn’t have a big role as far as games went, but every day at practice I tried to get better and tried to make the guys around me better with my effort and practice habits. This year I wanted to take another step, and that was my mindset every day this season… Improving every day and trying to get better and doing anything I could to make this team successful.”