Rhamondre Stevenson has been involved in two back-breaking plays in the last two weeks. First, an unscripted lateral on the final play against Las Vegas kickstarted a chaotic sequence that ended with the Raiders scoring the game-winning touchdown.
He followed up that play with a costly fumble against the Cincinnati Bengals on Christmas Eve: with the New England Patriots just five yards from scoring a potentially game-winning touchdown, Stevenson put the ball on the ground. The defense recovered to effectively wrap up the 22-18 contest.
So, has ball security become a concern with the sophomore running back? Not for head coach Bill Belichick, it seems.
“Mondre’s ball security has been pretty good all year. He had the ball knocked out at the start of the second half there,” he said before talking about the play in question. “He had two hands on the ball, they’re running him back and they knock it out at the end.”
Belichick later doubled down on his remarks when appearing on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show.
“Mondre’s a really good competitor,” he said live on the air. “He’s one of our best players, and I’m sure he’ll be ready to go.”
Stevenson entered the game against the Bengals with three fumbles on his career résumé — a rate of one fumble for every 130 touches. Of those, only one ended up with the opponent: the 2021 fourth-round pick lost a fumble in his first ever game, in Week 1 of his rookie season against Miami.
Against Cincinnati, however, Stevenson lost the ball on two occasions. It slipped through his hands on the Patriots’ first play of the third quarter, and again late in the fourth.
That second fumble was he subject of considerable post-game debate, with questions about whether or not the officiating crew should have whistled it dead given that forward progress appeared to be stopped. That never happened, but Belichick still went on the record to say that he trusts Stevenson’s decision-making in that case.
“I’m not going to second-guess Rhamondre on what he did,” he said.
Despite Belichick’s apparent trust in Stevenson, his role and workload might see a change over the final two weeks of the season. Fellow running back Damien Harris, after all, is in line to make his return from a nagging thigh injury possibly as early as this week against the Miami Dolphins.
Nonetheless, despite that and Stevenson’s recent involvement in two of the worst plays of New England’s season, the Patriots will still continue to rely on him down the stretch. The 24-year-old, after all, has proven himself as the team’s most productive offensive skill position player.