Patriots running back Damien Harris rushed for more than 100 yards and scored his first NFL touchdown Sunday afternoon, but none of that seemed to matter to him.
“I can’t say I’m too happy about anything right now,” Harris said after the Patriots had lost their fourth in a row to drop to 2-5. “Winning is more important than anything, any individual stat or accolade or individual rhythm, however you want to call it, however you want to slice it up. We’re here to win.”
Yes, the Patriots lost to the Buffalo Bills. With less than a minute remaining, New England’s potentially game-winning drive ended when quarterback Cam Newton fumbled at Buffalo’s 14-yard line. The Bills recovered and ran out the clock to hold on for the 24-21 victory.
Still, there was a lot to like from Harris — even if he won’t say so himself. The 23-year-old Alabama product tallied a game-high 102 yards on 16 carries, the bulk of which came in the second half. Had the Patriots managed to pull off the come-from-behind win, he would have been a major reason why.
On New England’s second drive of the third quarter, Harris powered his way into the end zone on a 22-yard run. On the team’s next possession, which also resulted in a touchdown, he earned four consecutive carries for a cumulative gain of 39 yards.
Since the Patriots activated him off injured reserve in Week 4, Harris has proven to be productive, so much so that his snaps shouldn’t decline when first-stringer Sony Michel returns from his quad injury.
Harris, however, seems focused on the end results more so than his individual performance.
“The most productive thing you can do in this league is to win,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who does what or how good somebody’s starts are if we don’t come out and win the game. I’m not really that happy about it. It’s great, I guess, but ultimately, it didn’t really contribute to our team winning.”
Despite the loss, does the increase in playing time mean anything to Harris? Especially after last season, when he barely saw the field? Sure. Is Harris happy he was able to step up in a game where the Patriots were without receivers Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry? Sure. Moving forward, even though the team is 2-5, there has to be at least some optimism after seeing the offense string together positive plays, right? Again, sure.
But Harris made his message clear: Winning is all that matters.
“It’s not about moral victories,” Harris said. “It’s not about trends. It’s not about, ‘Oh, well, we’re getting better this week; maybe next week, maybe two weeks from now, if we just keep trending, maybe then we’ll win.’ No. That’s not what we’re here for. That’s not what we’re here to do. We’re here to win.”
How many reps he gets, how many yards he rushes for, how involved the running game is, none of that seems to matter to Harris, so long as the Patriots are winning.
“Losing is very frustrating,” he said. “The frustration level is definitely high. Moral victories mean nothing in this organization. We’re frustrated. I’m frustrated. The team is frustrated. We just got to be better. There’s really no other way to put it.”
Harris stressed that he still believes in his teammates and that the group can turn their season around.
“Losing is frustrating, for sure, but I have just as much confidence in every person in this locker room as if we had won,” Harris said. "We’re in a tough spot right now and we dug ourselves a hole. That doesn’t mean we can’t dig ourselves out. That doesn’t mean our season’s over.
“If we don’t believe in each other, then we don’t have a chance. That’s the way that this game works. If we don’t believe in one another, then who will?”
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow her on Twitter @nicolecyang.