FOXBOROUGH — Patriots running back Damien Harris is on to New York.
A sullen Harris said multiple times Sunday that he wants to move on from his costly fumble in the fourth quarter of New England’s season-opening loss to the Dolphins.
“It’s a tough play,” Harris said after the 17-16 defeat. “Obviously, I have to do a better job holding onto the ball, especially in a critical situation like that. But it’s a long season. I’m not going to let this one mistake define me. I’m just ready to move forward.”
With 3½ minutes remaining, the Patriots trailing by a point, and the ball at Miami’s 11-yard line, Harris rushed for 2 yards only to have Xavien Howard punch out the ball on the tackle. Howard recovered the football, and the turnover allowed the Dolphins to seal the victory.
Leading up to the fumble, Harris had put together a strong showing, rushing for 100 yards, including a 35-yard run on the first play of the game. He also caught two passes for 17 yards.
But Harris made it clear none of his individual statistics matter, given the final result of the game.
“What’s most important to me is the fact that we didn’t win the game, first and foremost,” Harris said. “The play that happened, I’m ready to move on. It’s a tough play. It’s part of the game, but I hold myself accountable, and I’ll continue to do that.
“Like I said, I’m just ready to move forward, and I’m not going to let this define me as a player.”
Harris was clearly the team’s top rusher, with 23 carries. James White was next, with four. Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson earned one carry, as did Brandon Bolden and tight end Jonnu Smith. J.J. Taylor was inactive, a healthy scratch.
Ball security was an issue throughout the game, as Smith, Stevenson, and quarterback Mac Jones all also registered fumbles.
“Got to take care of the ball better,” said coach Bill Belichick.
There’s certainly no doubt that Harris will maintain his role. Up next for the Patriots are the New York Jets on the road.
“We just got to be better,” Harris said. “A lot of tough situations that came up — obviously, the fumble at the end of the game was one of the hardest ones to overcome, but it’s part of the game. Like I said, I’m not going to let this mistake define me.
“It’s time to move forward. We’ve got another challenge this upcoming week, so time to focus on that.”