Damien Harris, left, and Rhamondre Stevenson have combined for seven 100-yard rushing games this season for the Patriots. Associated Press

Heading into the final regular-season game with the Dolphins, with the playoffs on the horizon, there have been plenty of pundits taking stock of the Patriots’ offense.

The biggest worry?

Can Mac Jones keep up with a high-scoring offense if the need arises?

The least of the Patriots’ concerns?

The run game.

The dynamic duo of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson has been a constant pain in the rear to defenses. They scare opponents. If both are healthy, the Patriots will be tough to stop offensively.


Perhaps, the Patriots will be able to bully their way to keeping the high-powered offenses – Buffalo, Cincinnati, Kansas City – off the field.

“Nobody wants to face that,” SiriusXM NFL analyst Solomon Wilcots told the Boston Herald on Thursday. “Nobody. And if you wind up playing the Bengals, you want to load up on that running game and play keep away from Joe Burrow, don’t you?”

It’s an edge the Patriots have over the Dolphins this week, not to mention several teams they could face in the postseason, most notably Buffalo and Kansas City.

The Patriots can run. Those teams can’t, they’re more one-dimensional.

Pro Football Focus, in fact, has Harris as the top-ranked running back in the NFL. Stevenson, meanwhile, is No. 15, while Brandon Bolden is No. 19.

No other team has that kind of duo, much less trio if Bolden is included.


The only other team that comes close is Indianapolis, with Jonathan Taylor (No. 3) and Nyheim Hines (No. 21). Tennessee’s Derrick Henry, meanwhile, can take over a game by himself, much like Taylor.

The Patriots do it by committee, with Harris the lead, and Stevenson providing no let-up when he’s put in to pound the rock.

Bolden also packs a punch when he arrives on third down and gets his hands on the ball.

“They travel well. They get to the second level and get out of these plays what they’re supposed to get,” said Wilcots, “and keep the offense on schedule … so that run game is going to hold up in the playoffs.

“And the quarterback plays well enough to keep defenses honest,” he said of Jones. “You can’t overly stack the box … that’s how good the operation is, and that includes the offensive line up front.”

It just remains a question if Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will continue to lead with his strength, or be forced to rely more on Jones during the postseason.


The Bills, Bengals and Chiefs can put points on the board in a hurry, and in droves.

That might partially neutralize the Patriots run game if they have to play catch-up. But if they can establish the ground game like they have in many games, especially against teams that aren’t particularly stout against the run, that will pave the way to victory.

In games that featured both Harris and Stevenson in the backfield, the Patriots are 7-2. It was pretty much automatic for the Patriots to rush for over 100 yards in games where both backs saw action.

The duo stands as the first pair of running backs in Patriots history to both rush for more than 550 yards, have more than 4.4 yards per attempt and more than five rushing touchdowns in a single season.

If you’re looking for difference-makers in the offense, look no further than Harris and Stevenson. They’re the straws that stir the drink.

Between them, they’ve had seven 100-yard games, with Harris leading the charge with five.


So basically, the running game has become the safe place for the Patriots’ offense. Unlike the ups and downs of having a rookie quarterback, the run game is their given. The offense as a whole is triggered by the backs and how well they produce. They help Jones and set him up for play-action passes, a staple of the offense.

And while Stevenson started slowly, getting benched for a costly Week 1 fumble against the Dolphins, he’s really blossomed down the stretch.

“He’s worked really hard,” Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said earlier in the week. “Give the kid a lot of credit. He’s been asked to do a lot of things and he’s put in the extra time, really embraced the coaching and the detail that he’s gotten, tried to execute it, and has improved tremendously. I think he’s earned everyone’s respect for his work ethic and his willingness to help the team in any way he can.”

Harris, meanwhile, needs 108 yards against Miami to give the Patriots their first 1,000-yard rusher since LeGarrette Blount in 2016.

The regular season kicked off with Harris having a 100-yard game against the Dolphins. No doubt, the backs will want to continue to shine a light on what’s to come.

“We’re doing a good job on just honing in on this week,” Stevenson said Thursday during a video call with reporters, when asked about getting to play in the postseason. “We’re not really worried about weeks ahead of this one. We’re just honed down on Sunday, that’s what we’re focused on … We’re just trying to execute and play our best football.”

When it comes to the running game, that notion has pretty much been a given.

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