The New England Patriots stood 11 yards from the end zone when Damien Harris took his final carry of Sunday’s season opener at Gillette Stadium.
The result would be a fumble by the running back as a 17-16 deficit stayed intact with just over three minutes remaining against the Miami Dolphins.
“I mean, it was just a tough play,” Harris said during his postgame press conference. “Obviously, I have to do a better job of holding onto the ball, especially in a critical situation like that. But it’s a long season. I’m not going to let this mistake define me. So, I’m just ready to move forward.”
Harris started and rushed for 100 yards on 23 attempts against Miami. Not among those attempts was a near-touchdown negated by a holding penalty. The Alabama product also added 17 yards out of the backfield on a pair of receptions.
“I don’t really have to tell him anything because he works so hard,” Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor told reporters following the loss. “You know, it’s a next-play mentality. I think he’s a great football player. And if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t even be in that situation. He ran the ball so well. I’ll let the coaches coach him on that type of responsibility, but as his teammate, you know, I just continue to tell him I love the way he runs and how hard he plays.”
Dolphins first-team All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard recovered the football after the gain of two.
It would be one of four fumbles ruled against the Patriots on the afternoon, joining quarterback Mac Jones, tight end Jonnu Smith and fellow running back Rhamondre Stevenson in the gamebook. Half of which saw the offense retain possession.
“Again, what’s most important to me is the fact that we didn’t win the game, first and foremost,” added Harris. “And then the play that happened, I mean, I’m ready to move on. It’s a tough play. It’s part of the game. But I hold myself accountable and I’ll continue to do that.”
Harris led New England in rushing last season over the course of 10 appearances and scored two touchdowns. Sunday marked the fourth time the 2019 third-round pick reached the century mark on the ground since entering the league.
“I mean, at the end of the day, we lost the game,” Harris said. “And that’s what’s most important to me. That’s what’s most important to this team. We’ve just got to be better. A lot of tough situations that came up. Obviously, the fumble at the end of the game was one of the hardest ones to overcome. But that’s part of the game. Like I said, I’m not going to let this mistake define me. You know, just time to move forward. We’ve got another challenge this upcoming week, so time to focus on that.”
New England travels to MetLife Stadium for a meeting with the New York Jets next Sunday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET.