New England Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears minced no words in speaking of Damien Harris’ crucial fumble in the final minutes of the team’s one-point division loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
In something of a departure from head coach Bill Belichick’s reaction — that need for improvement was evident all over the field, not just in Harris’ ball security — Fears couldn’t let the miscue slide quite that easily.
“That’s something we preach. It is the classic thing you wouldn’t expect, giving the God d— game away,” Fears said Tuesday, per NFL Network’s Michael Giardi. “It’s hard to accept. For Damien, that stings like a son of a gun.”
Fears added, though, per USA Today: “I feel confident Damien (Harris) will step up to the plate with this. I really do. We have not had a problem with him.”
Harris was about to put the finishing touches on one of his best career games when he was stripped by Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard inside the Dolphins’ 10-yard line with about 3 minutes left to play. The Patriots trailed 17-16 at the time and needed just a chip shot field goal to take a lead. Granted, that would’ve left Dolphins second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa plenty of time to respond, but it was still the worst imaginable way for Harris to close out his fourth-career 100-yard game (23-100). The blame to share included the Patriots’ eight penalties for 84 yards in losses, and that Harris’ fumble was just one of the team’s four on the day.
“There’s a lot of things all of us could have done better in the game,” Belichick said afterward.
Harris, for his part, said he wouldn’t allow the mistake to be a defining moment, and he does, after all, have 16 games left to atone. Credit Fears, however, for being blunt about the obvious — while it might not be player-defining, it’s hard to argue it wasn’t game-defining.