A strong headwind didn’t stop Damien Harris from motoring through the Buffalo Bills’ defense.
It was both the longest run by a Patriots RB since Curtis Martin went for 70 yards against the Chicago Bears in 1997 and the highest top speed reached by a New England back (21.01 mph) since NFL Next Gen Stats began tracking player data in 2016.
The latter was especially impressive given the conditions. Harris has good wheels — he also has the second-, third- and fourth-fastest Patriots carries in the Next Gen Stats era — but he was running straight into a powerful wind that wreaked havoc on both teams’ passing and kicking games Monday night.
Despite that environmental resistance, Harris found a gaping seam in the Bills’ defense — opened up with key blocks by Trent Brown, Ted Karras, Shaq Mason, Isaiah Wynn, Jakob Johnson and N’Keal Harry — and outran safety Micah Hyde to the end zone.
Harris finished with a game-high 111 rushing yards on 10 carries despite playing just one snap after halftime. He exited the game with a hamstring injury and spent most of the second half on the sideline.
Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson added an additional 78 yards on 24 carries as the Patriots, who attempted just three passes, racked up a season-high 222 yards on the ground. Handoffs to New England running backs gained an average of 5.7 yards per play.
“Those guys were productive,” head coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday morning. “They ran hard. They ran with good pad level. They got some extra yards after contact. That’s important, too. That’s what a back needs to do. We need to block the play for however many yards we block it for and, hopefully, the player with the ball can add onto that. I thought they did a good job of that. They made some tough yards.”
The Patriots are on a bye this week, giving Harris extra time to heal his injured hamstring. They’ll return to action Saturday, Dec. 18 against the Indianapolis Colts.