FOXBORO, Mass. — Sunday’s New England Patriots game wasn’t Rhamondre Stevenson’s best of the season.
The New York Jets’ talented front seven succeeded in shutting down Stevenson’s running lanes, holding the explosive second-year pro to just 26 yards on 15 carries. The 1.7 yards-per-carry average was the worst of his NFL career to date.
But even in a largely forgettable performance, Stevenson still managed to deliver the most sensational offensive play in the Patriots’ 10-3 victory at Gillette Stadium.
Facing a third-and-16 in Jets territory midway through the second quarter, Stevenson caught a short pass in the flat from quarterback Mac Jones. He used a slick juke to shimmy past linebacker Quincy Williams but then was met by a trio of New York defenders 6 yards shy of the first-down marker.
End of the road? For most NFL running backs, maybe. But not for Stevenson.
Safety Lamarcus Joyner had a chance to bring him down but whiffed. Linebacker C.J. Mosley had him wrapped up, then slid off. Safety Jordan Whitehead threw his shoulder into Stevenson, but the Patriots back didn’t flinch.
By the time cornerback Michael Carter II dragged him down, Stevenson had picked up 19 yards to move the chains.
“When I got the ball, I just knew it was third down, so I knew I had to get the first down,” said Stevenson, who ranks seventh among NFL running backs in both yards after contact and yards after the catch this season. “I kind of hold my hat on not letting the first person tackle me, so that was one of those situations. It was getting away from the first tackle and just making it to the first down.”
Though he struggled to gain much traction as a rusher behind a struggling offensive line, Stevenson led all Patriots pass-catchers Sunday with six receptions on six targets for 56 yards. Running mate Damien Harris played just 15 snaps to Stevenson’s 49 but powered New England’s ground game, finishing with 65 yards on eight carries.
Stevenson has surpassed Harris as the Patriots’ top backfield threat, but their offense is at its best when both backs are healthy and contributing. New England will look to shake off its monthlong offensive malaise when it visits the Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving night.