Patriots running back Damien Harris leaves the field of New England’s 17-16 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Harris fumbled on the Patriots’ final offensive play of the game. Winslow Townson/Associated Press

Ivan Fears is not a happy man.

The Patriots’ longtime running backs coach takes pride in making sure his running backs hold onto the football. Ball security is No. 1 on his priority list.

So it was hugely disappointing for Fears to see fumbles by Damien Harris and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson play a significant role in the Patriots’ 17-16 loss to the Dolphins Sunday.

“The one thing we preach about more than anything in the world is ball security. It was like the classic thing that you wouldn’t expect to happen, that we would actually give the ball away, give the damn game away by turning the ball over in the last few minutes of the game when we were in scoring position,” he told reporters during a Zoom call Tuesday. “That’s a hard one, that’s a hard one to accept and for Damien . . . that stings like a son of a gun.”

Fears said the running game is a big part of the offensive equation, as it helps set up Mac Jones and the passing game.

Fears couldn’t hide his disappointment during the call.

“Hell ya, you know it. You can’t hide that. That hurt. It hurt everybody,” he said. “One thing we used to take pride in was not giving the game away. And we gave the game away. We took away our chance to win the game, and we can’t do that. There’s no way you feel good about that.

“We get to play again,” he went on. “That’s the only good thing we got going here, we get to play again, and again and again, and hopefully we get to put this one behind us with some doggone solid play and dependable play.”

Harris had a 100-yard day on 23 carries. The fumble, however, is his most memorable play.

Fears, though, thought Harris would move on, and be better for it.

“Rule No. 1, you gotta understand the situation. The journey was over. We didn’t need much more. It wasn’t fighting for a first down. His journey was over. Protect the ball with both arms, get what you can get and go down.”

“I feel confident Damien is going to step up to the plate on this, I really do,” he said.

As for Stevenson, who put the ball down in the first quarter, and wasn’t heard from after, the bigger issue with him was not going after the ball, and just assuming the play was dead after he got tackled.

“You have to understand how important that ball is. I hope he learns from Damien on the situation, how devastating it is when you give up the ball,” said Fears. “He’s got to learn that no matter when the ball comes out, even though you may think you’re down, the evidence doesn’t always back you. So you have to hand the ball to the official, is what you gotta do. That should be your goal. You get tackled, you’re the one handing the ball to the official after every time you touch it. That’s the way he’s got to approach it, he’s got to learn that lesson.

“He’s a hell of a back,” Fears added, “but he’s gotta learn that lesson. He can’t play the other way.”

Looking forward to the Jets, Fears believes Robert Saleh’s defense will test the Patriots and their ball security.

“They’re going to come after us, and try to get the ball. So we’ve gotta protect the damn ball,” he said. “We gotta make some plays, make some plays in space, and we got to run it like a son of a gun. But most importantly, we gotta protect this ball and that’s the No. 1 thing.”

Asked if J.J. Taylor, who was a healthy scratch against the Dolphins, might be summoned, Fears didn’t dismiss the notion.

He indicated Taylor had performed well last week on the scout team.

“He’s just gotta wait for his shot,” said Fears. “He’s definitely somebody we like to think about.”

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