FOXBOROUGH — N’Keal Harry’s day was cut short Sunday when the second-year receiver suffered a head injury after being rocked on a third-down incompletion on the final play of the first quarter.
Harry, who entered the game with 18 receptions, caught Cam Newton’s first pass of the game for a 6-yard gain.
Then on a third-and-6 from the San Francisco 22-yard line, Newton zipped a quick hit to Harry, who was drilled by the 49ers’ Tarvarius Moore just as the ball arrived. Harry was slow to get up and was wobbly as he walked to the sideline with some assistance.
Following a brief stop in the medical tent, Harry was whisked away to the locker room. He was ruled questionable before being downgraded to out at the half.
The second-year receiver has had trouble gaining or sustaining momentum since arriving as a 2019 first-round draft pick from Arizona State. He has 19 catches for 172 yards and a touchdown on the season.
More injuries, shuffling on line
New England suffered another blow on the offensive line when left guard Joe Thuney was forced to leave in the third quarter with an ankle injury.
An ironman of sorts, Thuney has also played a pair of games at center this season. According to an NFL Media report, Thuney’s sprain is low on the ankle and considered minor.
It forced yet another reshuffling on the offensive line, with rookie Mike Onwenu, who started the game at right tackle in place of Jermaine Eluemunor, taking over Thuney’s spot.
Fellow rookie Justin Herron jumped in at right tackle. He didn’t last long, however, suffering an ankle injury of his own in the fourth quarter, forcing Onwenu to switch back. Hjalte Froholdt then moved to left guard.
The Patriots did welcome back center David Andrews (thumb) and Shaq Mason (calf, COVID-19 list) to the lineup.
Onwenu made his sixth straight start and his first at right tackle. He started two games as a jumbo tight end, one game at left guard, and two games at right guard
Opt-outs, injuries, and the coronavirus have kept the Patriots offensive line in a constant state of flux in 2020 as they have started four different combinations in the last four games.
Keene finally makes debut
Dalton Keene was active for the first time in his career and the rookie tight end caught one pass for 8 yards. Keene had a neck injury in Week 1 but had been a healthy scratch for the last four games.
Keene in essence took the spot of fellow rookie tight end Devin Asiasi, who had played the first five games but had not been targeted in the passing game.
The only other mild surprise inactive was rookie safety Kyle Dugger, who had been nursing an ankle injury that kept him limited in practice. His physical presence was missed as the Patriots had trouble containing 49ers tight end George Kittle, especially in the first half. Kittle finished with 5 catches for 55 yards.
The other New England inactives included quarterback Brian Hoyer, running back J.J. Taylor, cornerback Myles Bryant, and defensive tackle Carl Davis.
Newton passes milestone
Cam Newton did make history in his start.
With his 11-yard competition to Jakobi Meyers in the third quarter, he eclipsed 30,000 passing yards for his career.
Newton is the first player in NFL history with 30,000 passing yards and 5,000 rushing yards.
Newton, who said his shoulder is “fine” acknowledged he’s been pressing since returning after his time on the COVID/reserve list.
"I don’t think it’s anything with mechanics. It’s seeing the situation at hand and I caught myself just pressing too much,'' he said. "The energy has definitely been off for me and at times it’s not rewarding when you’re just going out there with this aura about yourself that’s not you.''
Julian Edelman had just one catch for 13 yards and Newton said his “WiFi” with Edelman has been off.
"We got to figure it out,'' the quarterback said.
Happy ‘homecoming’ for Garoppolo
San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who had a brief chat with Bill Belichick after the game, said he “a cool week” leading up to his return to Gillette. "Just a lot of emotions, a lot of memories,'' said Garoppolo, traded by the Patriots during the 2017 season. "Especially coming back here, seeing the same stadium, hearing the same songs they used to play, a lot of memories came back. A lot of emotions out there. But it was a fun night.'' . . . It was the most lopsided home loss of the Belichick era . . . Lawrence Guy registered his first sack of the season . . . Defensive lineman Tashawn Bower made his Patriots debut and had three tackles.
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