Ivan Fears, the coach of the New England Patriots’ running backs, was blunt in his assessment of Damien Harris’ critical fumble in the dying minutes of the team’s one-point division defeat to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
Fears couldn’t let the blunder go as easy as head coach Bill Belichick did — the need for improvement was visible all across the field, not just in Harris’ ball security — in a break from Belichick’s approach.
“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.”
With approximately 3 minutes left in the game, 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. At the time, the Patriots were down 17-16 and needed only a chip shot field goal to take the lead. Although this would have given Dolphins second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa plenty of time to respond, it was still the worst way for Harris to end his fourth career 100-yard game (23-100). The Patriots’ eight penalties for 84 yards in losses were also to blame, as was Harris’ fumble, which was 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.
For his part, Harris said he wouldn’t let the blunder define him, noting that he still has 16 games to make amends. Fears, on the other hand, deserves credit for stating the obvious — while it may not be player-defining, it’s difficult to argue that it wasn’t game-defining.