The Patriots phasing RB Damien Harris out of the offense against Houston’s bottom-barrel run defense is bad coaching.
The jubilation Patriots fans felt after their convincing win over Baltimore in Week 10 was unfortunately short-lived as they stumbled against a largely unwatchable Texans side on Sunday.
New England had no answers for Deshaun Watson, who found gaping holes in the secondary all game long, finishing 28-of-37 for 344 yards and two touchdowns, adding 36 yards and score with his legs.
In a vacuum, fans are probably justified in blaming the defense for the loss. However, we would turn to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and the rest of the coaching staff’s maddening offensive game plan, which — for reasons we’ll never understand — made Damien Harris a non-factor after the first quarter.
For the game, Harris took 11 carries for 43 yards and a touchdown, and that is simply indefensible for a player who’s been the Patriots’ best offensive weapon for a large chunk of the season. It becomes even more alarming when you realize that his touches (and snaps) vanished after the opening two drives, when he logged 36 yards and a TD on seven carries.
Harris carried the ball just four times for seven yards for the rest of the game with the Patriots’ puzzlingly making it an emphasis to have Cam Newton drop back to pass. In the 31-year-old quarterback’s defense, he absolutely lit up Houston’s secondary, but the offense wasn’t nearly as explosive as it was on the first and second drives.
With the Patriots defense finding it impossible to prevent Watson from scoring, you would think that they would lean on the running game to leave him on the sidelines for as long as humanly possible, right? Instead, however, they defied logic and put the defense in an awful situation.
Look at those stats! The stars literally aligned for Harris to one-up his career performance vs the Ravens last weekend and it even looked to be the case through the first couple of drives before the coaching staff crazily opted to abandon the run.
It’s not like Houston opened up a big lead early into the second quarter, either. Both of their touchdowns were scored with less than four minutes remaining, meaning that the Patriots easily could’ve featured Harris more if they wanted.
Again, we’re not pointing all of the blame at Harris being de-emphasized, but you better believe that it played a huge role in the Patriots’ loss to a bad Texans team, and fans have every reason to be incensed.