By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — When the Patriots drafted Damien Harris in the third round, lots of people in New England were excited to see what the running back could do in the NFL. After one of the most productive careers in Alabama history, the expectations were high.

Unfortunately for those folks, that opportunity never really came. Buried on the depth chart behind Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White, Harris barely saw the field as a rookie. He ultimately got four carries for 12 yards in what essentially served as a redshirt season.

Now a year later, though, an injury to Michel opened the door for Harris. And the 23-year-old doesn’t look like he has any intention of giving that job back.

Harris was once again dynamite for the Patriots this week, rushing for 123 yards on his first 17 carries of the night. He carried the offense on the drive leading up to Jakobi Meyers’ touchdown pass to Rex Burkhead, rushing six times for 39 yards. When the Patriots scored again coming out of halftime, it was Harris’ back-to-back runs of 16 yards and 25 yards that got the drive going. The latter run also pushed Harris over the 100-yard mark less than a minute into the third quarter.

It was Harris’ third 100-yard game, as he finished with 121 yards on 22 carries. And after the win, he couldn’t hide the fact that he was emotional.

“I’m kind of overcome with emotion right now. So I’m sorry if I’m a little too excited but, you know, I am on cloud nine right now,” Harris said. “That that was a tough game in that kind of weather. Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve been hearing all these stories about New England weather around November, so I guess that was my first taste of it, and I loved every second of it. So I’m just I’m super happy right now.”

Harris said he’s had almost no experience playing in the rain, let alone a severe storm like the one that hit Foxboro on Sunday night. Despite those slippery conditions, Harris never lost the football.

“I’ve always been like, I don’t want to play in the rain. That’s just it’s just not my thing. I’ve never really had a reason to want to play in the rain. Some guys love that stuff but I’ve always been kind of one of those guys who want it to be like 65 and sunny,” Harris said. “But being out there in that atmosphere and being a part of this team in such a special moment, including the weather, like I said earlier, I can’t even express to you guys how excited I am and how happy I am and just how much love I have for this team, how much love I have for this game. And tonight was just a real special moment in my personal career and I’ll definitely remember that for a long time.”

Clearly, the excitement for Harris coming out of the 2019 draft was justified. It just took a little extra time to be fulfilled.

Now, some leftover thoughts from the Patriots’ 23-17 win over the Ravens on Sunday Night Football.

–It’s kind of funny how after a weekend spent debating and dissecting Bill Belichick’s abilities and shortcomings in the draft, his best player on defense was the most Bill Belichick draft pick of all time. Safety Kyle Dugger turned in his best game as a pro on national TV on Sunday night, recording a career-high seven solo tackles and a team-high 12 total tackles. He also should have had an interception, if not for a difficult-but-still-incorrect ruling on the field.

Dugger also showed tremendous starts when he flew in through the pounding rain to tackle J.K. Dobbins before the running back could reach the boundary on what proved to be the penultimate play of the night for Baltimore’s offense.

Kyle Dugger tackles J.K. Dobbins in bounds. (GIF from NFL.com/GamePass)

That tackle kept the clock ticking, and Baltimore took the fourth down snap with just 8 seconds left in the game. It was the kind of attention to detail that is required to play for Belichick, and it was a good reward to the coaching staff, which trusted him to start the game and play a career-high 56 defensive snaps. Despite that limited collegiate background in terms of high-quality competition, Dugger has been acquitting himself rather well in his rookie NFL season.

Kyle Dugger (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

–Being a defensive back in the open field as Cam Newton comes charging at your face with a full head of steam since LOUSY. L-O-U-S-Y. Lousy.

No thank you!

–I legitimately thought that Lawrence Guy and Carl Davis hit Lamar Jackson so hard that the quarterback was going to disintegrate. I do not know how he got up.

Lawrence Guy swallows up Lamar Jackson. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

It’s those types of hits that would worry me in the long term about Jackson if I were Baltimore. But in this game, he popped back up and threw a 13-yard completion on the next play.

–Officials have clearly gotten a directive from above to call the “lowering the helmet” penalty more often this year. It’s popped up a lot in recent weeks. We saw two of those penalties called on Sunday night, one for each team.

In the case of Baltimore, it was DeShon Elliott who dropped his dome to deliver a hit on Jakobi Meyers.

DeShon Elliott penalty (GIF from NFL.com/GamePass)

What you have to respect is that Elliott figured, “They’re not going to call that twice in the same drive,” so he did this just two plays later:

(GIF from NFL.com/GamePass)

Rex Burkhead was fortunate that gravity saved him there.

–“The Rise Of Jakobi Meyers, Part 2” has been a sight to behold. He had a nice little October surge last year, catching eight passes for 101 yards over the course of two games. But then the Patriots got Mohamed Sanu, and Meyers’ playing time dipped, to the point where he was a forgotten man by the end of the year. This time around, Meyers seems intent on making this run last.

Here’s what Meyers has done over his last four games.

vs. SF: 4 receptions, 60 yards
@ BUF: 6 receptions, 58 yards
@ NYJ: 12 receptions, 169 yards
vs. BAL: 5 receptions, 59 yards

What’s most notable is that unlike last year, he didn’t slide back on the depth chart just because N’Keal Harry returned from injury. Harry was on the field for just 60 percent of New England’s offensive snaps on Sunday, compared to Meyers’ 98 percent.

And while the touchdown pass on the trick play was a fun time, don’t sleep on Meyers’ abilities as a receiver. Look at him put Marcus Peters in a blender right here:

Jakobi Meyers beats Marcus Peters for a 26-yard gain. (GIF from NFL.com/GamePass)

Peters was so miffed he threw Meyers to the ground and picked up a late hit penalty.

Good night for Jakobi.

–I briefly mentioned this earlier, but back in my day, if you wanted to record a catch in a football game, then you had to actually catch the football. And Mark Andrews, you sir did not catch this football.

Mark Andrews was credited with a catch on this play. (GIF from NFL.com/GamePass)

We’ve sure come a long way from Jesse James and “surviving the ground,” haven’t we?

I don’t even really blame anyone for that one. I don’t blame the official, because that one’s hard to see in real time. I don’t blame Belichick for not challenging, because that would be a hard one to overturn and also because Al Riveron is somehow not very good at interpreting the rules of the NFL despite being the chief rules interpreter for the NFL.

Just an unfortunate break for Dugger and the Patriots. The Ravens ended up scoring a touchdown on that drive.

–Speaking of making catches, has J.C. Jackson gotten enough credit for securing this football?

Not an easy catch. The young man has exceptional hands.

–This was a very physical game, in case that wasn’t clear. Some hits were ferocious. Others were just plain weird. Like this one:

Chase Winovich hits Mark Andrews (GIF from NFL.com/GamePass)

Early in the game, Big Strong Man Jakob Johnson might have underestimated Malik Harrison’s horsepower:

Jakob Johnson, Malik Harrison (GIF from NFL.com/GamePass)

John Simon, who really had an excellent and disruptive game, chucking Dobbins into Walpole was simply humorous:

John Simon (GIF from NFL.com/GamePass)

–This is impressive and thus worth noting:

Consider it now noted.

–Little bit of a nitpick here for the Ravens’ coaching staff. But having your linebackers drop to 5-7 yard depth on a third-and-3 seems counterintuitive to the goal at hand.

Cam Newton completes a pass to Jakobi Meyers for a first down late in the fourth quarter. (GIF from NFL.com/GamePass)

That conversion allowed the Patriots to strangle an extra 1:25 off the game clock and force Baltimore to burn all of its timeouts. It only went down as a 4-yard completion, but it really went a long way in sealing that win.

–If you thought we were going to get through an entire story without spotlighting the fullback making a 12-yard catch-and-run, then you are (no offense) a humongous bozo.

Don’t let that happen again, you hear me?

–Sometimes after games, we say things like “the offense didn’t execute in the red zone” or “the play calling in the red zone was questionable” or some other explanation to lament missed points. In this one, though, the Patriots’ execution in the red zone was so superb that it warrants a quick shout.

Cam Newton’s touchdown run was perfection. It was the type of play where every single player on defense knew what it was as soon as the ball was snapped, but not one of them could do a single thing about it. Poor Mike Onwenu had nobody to even hit.

Somebody give Mike Onwenu a person to hit! Now!

And the touchdown pass to Burkhead (non-Jakobi edition) was likewise perfect. Watch it. It’s a symphony.

The fake jet sweep to Damiere Byrd completely baffled cornerback Terrell Bonds, who for some reason thought he was going to make it all the way across the field to stop a touchdown. In doing so, he vacated the spot, and N’Keal Harry’s legal block of Elliott freed up the entire right side of the field.

–Will the Patriots make the playoffs now? I don’t know. I don’t think so. Beefing it vs. Denver and fumbling away a game in Buffalo are almost certainly going to sink them. That might be the case. Maybe a miracle run gets them in. It’s technically possible.

We don’t know that yet, though. We do know that there are some sweet photos of the Patriots and Ravens playing in the rain. So we’ll end with those … while wistfully imagining how much better it would have looked if the game was a muddy mess on real grass.

Cam Newton (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Jonathan Jones and Devin McCourty hit Willie Snead. . (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Cam Newton takes a snap in the rain. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

Whoops how did this tremendous photo of the muddy slopfest between the Patriots and Ravens in 2004 sneak in here? Oh well I guess we will keep it! (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Chase Winovich (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

Comments
  1. patsox23 says:

    As always, an excellent LEFTOVERS column~

Leave a Reply