Lack of trust left the Patriots snake-bitten, but they can fix it going forward

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The New England Patriots did everything they could to lose their Week 1 opener to the Miami Dolphins, and they finally succeeded with a heartbreaking fumble in the red zone by the typically sure-handed running back Damien Harris.

No, this isn’t an attempt to reopen any wounds from the day that left Patriots fans hopeful, yet still cursing at the television screen after the most anticlimactic finish possible.

Think of this more as an impromptu huddle ahead of the team’s Week 2 meeting with the New York Jets on Sunday—a get-right moment to avoid an even more painful face-plant against Gang Green.

Now can we talk about the fumbles?

There’s no quicker way to get into coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse than putting the ball on the ground. Not even Belichick’s dog, Nike, is in the doghouse. So it was obvious rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson was in all sorts of trouble when he fumbled the ball against the Dolphins in the first official carry of his career. Whether he was actually down or not is pretty irrelevant after the fact.

The ball became dislodged, and the referees called it a fumble.

End of story.

The real problem is throwing in the towel on Stevenson after the one play. That decision led to increased carries for Harris, who was obviously sucking air at certain points on the sideline leading up to the fumble that essentially nixed the Patriots’ comeback efforts.

It’s early in the season, and it was a game where he had a career-high 23 carries.

He’ll get his wind as the year goes on and he acclimates to game shape, but it still doesn’t change the fact that the Patriots need to get their other running backs involved.

They made the decision to send Sony Michel packing to the Los Angeles Rams because they believed they had viable backup options already on the roster with guys like Stevenson and J.J. Taylor. Now, they have to trust those guys on the football field.

It’s a changing of the guard with the Patriots offense, and guys are going to make mistakes.

But the talent at that running back position is undeniable. Stevenson looked like the second-coming of LeGarrette Blount in the preseason, and Taylor is the sort of change-of-pace option with enough juke moves to break ankles for a living.

Of course, trust goes both ways.

Harris and Stevenson both have to be better about securing the ball and not fumbling in those situations. Those are the mistakes that cost teams football games, and no one knows that more than the coach on the sidelines with the scowl and sleeveless hoodie.