Bills Coach Sean McDermott Calls Out N’Keal Harry After Patriots Win

Harry botched a punt return in the first half of Monday's game

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December 7, 2021

Sean McDermott’s postgame news conference Monday night included a ricochet shot at New England Patriots wide receiver N’Keal Harry.

Asked why he chose to make punt returners Isaiah McKenzie and Marquez Stevenson inactive for Monday’s game, which the Buffalo Bills lost 14-10, McDermott said he wanted to avoid a mistake like the one Harry made in the first half.

Harry, an inexperienced returner, misplayed a Bills punt amid heavy winds at Highmark Stadium, allowing it to bounce off the turf and then off his facemask. Buffalo recovered at the New England 14-yard line and proceeded to score its only touchdown of the game.

“The same reason that they turned it over on their punt return, I wasn’t willing to do that,” McDermott told reporters. “I wanted to put a guy back there that I trusted, that is going to make good decisions with the ball.”

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s decision to use Harry on punt and kick returns faced heavy scrutiny after the receiver’s miscue. The third-year pro had never returned a punt or kick in an NFL game before Monday and hadn’t looked especially comfortable in those roles when the Patriots tried him out there in training camp.

On the punt in question, New England deployed its usual return man, Gunner Olszewski, as an upback, with Harry positioned deeper. Harry also lined up at the goal line on Buffalo’s three kickoffs, with Olszewski and fullback Jakob Johnson in the two upback spots. All three kicks went through the end zone.

Belichick referenced Harry’s “ball-handling” when asked why he chose to use him in the return game.

The Patriots overcame the elements Monday night by running the ball 46 times and attempted just three passes. Both of Nick Folk’s field-goal attempts came with the wind — which gusted to near 50 miles per hour — at his back. Bills kicker Tyler Bass missed a 33-yard field goal into the wind.

McDermott bristled at a question about the “psychological” challenge of coaching against Belichick in a game like this, saying: “Let’s not give more credit than we need to give credit to Bill Belichick in this one.” His punt return quote also could be viewed as a knock on Belichick’s decision-making.

A rematch between the 9-4 Patriots and 7-5 Bills is set for Sunday, Dec. 26 at Gillette Stadium.

Thumbnail photo via Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports Images
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, running back Rhamondre Stevenson
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