Entering Week 5 with the league’s top-rated rushing attack in terms of DVOA, the New England Patriots were expected to keep the ball on the ground early and often against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
And that’s exactly what they did.
With Damien Harris departing in the first half with a hamstring injury, the Patriots turned to Rhamondre Stevenson to carry the work on the ground. Against the Lions porous rush defense, Stevenson rumbled for a career-high 161 on 25 carries.
“Just going in from Monday, we just knew we had to run the ball well and be physical,” Stevenson said postgame. “When Damien went down I just told him I got his back ... just putting it all together and playing a four quarter game.”
Without Harris, Stevenson was left as the lone back on the active roster as rookie Pierre Strong Jr. was inactive. He played every snap the rest of the game, responding to the challenge.
“You got to give him a ton of credit with Damien out,” Bill Belichick said postgame. “He put it all on his shoulders. ... He’s always good. Does a great job with the ball in his hands, he’s a strong runner but can make people miss. Just a good football player, really a good football player - so glad we have him.”
Stevenson’s longest run of the day came on a 49-yarder in the first quarter. Entering the week as one of the top runners in the league after contact, he worked his way through several Detroit defenders near the line of scrimmage before breaking free. While it appeared to be the highlight of his day, Stevenson was left wanting more.
“I felt like I should have scored that ball,” he explained. “So no confidence is gained from that run.”
A career-long for @dreeday32.— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 9, 2022
: #DETvsNE on @NFLonFOX pic.twitter.com/TwNEglgSFP
Triggering the sophomore back’s big day was the guys up front. With Bailey Zappe under center, the combination of Stevenson and the offensive line made life easy for their rookie quarterback - who called the starting unit plus Marcus Cannon the game “MVPs”.
“Those guys up front really led the way,” Stevenson said. “Just because how hard they're moving people, how hard they're working things like that. Just those guys up front got all the respect for them.”
David Andrews, however, made sure to give the back some credit of his own.
“[Rhamondre’s] a helluva back,” Andrews said postgame. “He makes us look better than we are sometimes.”
New England’s ground game has been the most efficient way of moving the ball through the first five weeks of the season, with Stevenson being a large part of that. With Damien Harris now battling an injury, Stevenson could be on the verge of an even larger role in the Patriots offense.
“He’s a good all-around back,” Belichick said. “Love him.”