EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Patriots' pulsating 30-27 win Monday night over the Jets could come with a heavy price after Damien Harris left in the fourth quarter after absorbing a big hit upper-body shot from Neville Hewitt.
Harris, who had a game-high 71 yards rushing on 14 carries, took a handoff on the game-tying drive and snuck through the first line of defense before he was met by Hewitt.
The second year back crumpled to the turf and it was unclear what his ailment is. He stayed down for a while as the medical staff tended to him. Harris eventually walked off the field gingerly but under his own power. He eventually made his way to the locker room escorted by staffers.
Harris has given the Patriots rushing attack an injection of power and energy over the last month, rushing for more than 100 yards against the Chiefs and Bills after returning from a thumb injury suffered late in training camp.
The Patriots were shorthanded at the position with Sony Michel (quadriceps) on injured reserve and rookie J.J. Taylor out with an illness.
In addition to Harris’s 71 yards, Rex Burkhead rushed 12 times for 56 yards and Cam Newton and Gunner Olszewski rushed for 16 yards apiece.
Onwenu worth watching
Film sessions following a loss can be uncomfortable.
Often, you can hear a pin drop from the audience of players as dismal plays are run and re-run. The reviews don’t normally get two thumbs up from coaches, as mistakes are pointed out in hopes they won’t be repeated. Sometimes, however, a positive play is so eye-opening it breaks the negative silence.
Enter Mike Onwenu.
The big rookie offensive lineman, who Monday started his eighth straight game at his fourth different position, provided a break in the tension when he nearly broke a pair of Buffalo linebackers in last week’s loss to the Bills.
Pulling right to provide an escort on a Damien Harris sweep, the 6-foot-3-inch, 350-pound Onwenu first demolished A.J. Klein before polishing off Tremaine Edmunds.
“Yeah definitely, during the film session, all the guys cheered me on,” Onwenu said. “So, I mean, that was a good feeling.”
It happened so quickly, it appeared Klein and Edmunds didn’t know what hit them. Neither did Onwenu.
“To be honest, I didn’t even know that happened until I watched it,” he said. “But, you know, I’m glad I did.”
It was just the latest big play from the big man, though Patriots fans shouldn’t be surprised. They’ve seen plenty of special things from guys drafted in the sixth round out of Michigan.
Onwenu keeps showing up — on tape certainly, but on the field more importantly. He’s been plugged in every spot on the offensive line save center, and also has contributed as a (very) jumbo tight end.
While he’s proven adept at handling his solo blocks, his ability to master combo block techniques — especially in light of how many different positions he plays — has been impressive.
“Mike’s not only a good player in terms of having position flexibility and the intelligence to handle different positions and different assignments and be on a different side of the ball, but his fundamentals and techniques are very good,” said Bill Belichick.
The coach then explained the concept behind the tandem blocks, long a staple of the Patriots schemes.
“So, really, any time you have a double-team block, it’s really not a true double-team block,” he said. “You’re starting off on two guys on one, but ultimately, you want to end up with two guys on two guys. You just don’t have enough guys to double team and get a hat on everybody. So, really the key on those double teams is to successfully block two for two.”
Or send Onwenu on a pull play and let him bowling pin a couple of defenders.
What couldn’t Brown do for his team?
Outside linebackers coach Steve Belichick was patrolling the sideline as usual Monday night, helping call the defensive signals against the Jets.
This season, Belichick has worn a Jim Brown patch on his sweatshirt, a tribute to his favorite running back as part of the NFL’s campaign to end racism and discrimination. Bill Belichick similarly has worn a patch to honor trailblazer Fritz Pollard.
Steve struck up a friendship with Brown when the Belichicks lived in Cleveland.
“Very honored and proud to wear his patch and represent him,” Steve said last week. “I got to meet Jim back when my dad coached the Browns and he was around the facility a lot, so our relationship goes way back.”
Belichick recalled how Brown was discriminated against in college.
“He had some tough times, struggled back when he was at Syracuse,” said Steve Belichick, who played lacrosse at Rutgers and mentioned how Brown is considered by many the best lacrosse player in history. “He played in the Cotton Bowl [in 1957] and wasn’t allowed to stay in the team hotel because of restrictions during that time. He’s been through a lot and he does a lot of community service work and a lot of great things in his community in California. He’s definitely someone I look up to and admire.”
For the record, Syracuse lost that Cotton Bowl to Texas Christian, 28-27, despite an amazing day from Brown, who played halfback, linebacker, and kicker. He rushed for 132 yards and three touchdowns, kicked three extra points, returned three kickoffs for 96 yards, and collected five tackles.
Next men up
The Patriots elevated linebacker Terez Hall and receiver Kristian Wilkerson, allowing both players to make their NFL debuts against the Jets in the voids left by Ja’Whaun Bentley (groin) and N’Keal Harry (concussion).
Hall, who had a strong training camp, was originally signed as an undrafted free agent from Missouri in 2019 and has spent his professional career on New England’s practice squad.
The 6-1, 201-pound Wilkerson is an undrafted rookie from Southeast Missouri State who was signed to the practice squad Sept. 8, after spending the summer with the Titans.
In addition, Tashawn Bower was signed to the 53-man roster off the practice squad. Bower, a callup the last two games, has five tackles.
Notable names on inactive lists
Brian Hoyer was the final announced inactive player for New England, joining Harry, Bentley, Lawrence Guy (shoulder, elbow, knee), Stephon Gilmore (knee), Dalton Keene (ankle), and J.J. Taylor (illness). Safety Kyle Dugger (ankle) returned after a two-game absence, and defensive tackle Carl Davis (concussion) made his Patriots debut.
The Jets inactives included quarterbacks Sam Darnold and James Morgan; receiver Vyncint Smith; offensive tackle Cameron Clark; defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, and linebacker Blake Cashman. New York signed QB Mike White from its practice squad to back up starter Joe Flacco.
Taking the fourth
The Jets only ran four offensive plays in the fourth quarter as the Patriots dominated time of possession in the second half (21:39-8:21) . . . Nick Folk is now 14 for 15 in his career on lead-changing field goal attempts in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime . . . With Folk dealing with a cranky back, Patriots punter and kickoff specialist Jake Bailey took some warm-up field goals and hit both of his attempts, from 34 and 48 yards. Bailey is Folk’s normal holder, so Gunner Olszewski held for Bailey . . . The Jets did a little pregame troll by playing Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement” when the Patriots came out for their final warm-ups. That was Tom Brady’s jog-on tune for years at Gillette Stadium . . . The Patriots claimed tight end Jordan Thomas off waivers from the Cardinals, according to an ESPN report. Thomas was a sixth-round pick of the Texans in 2018, when he had his best season (20 catches, 215 yards, 4 TDs) . . . On his pregame appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub, Bill Belichick was asked by a fan how he took his coffee on scouting trips. “I don’t drink coffee. I have a lot of other vices but that’s not one of them,” the coach said before adding, “I skip the coffee and I certainly need to skip the donuts, too.”