We know moral victories aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there was a lot to like from the Patriots’ Week 1 loss to the Dolphins.
Mac Jones looked as good as advertised after he won the quarterback competition. The defense, meanwhile, got off the field on third down and limited the Dolphins to just 17 points and 259 yards of total offense.
Even the running game was efficient, totaling 125 yards on 4.2 yards per carry. However, it’s not a stretch to say the Patriots’ RBs cost them the game, as both Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris committed fumbles.
Harris’ gaffe proved more costly than Stevenson’s, but it was still a rough NFL debut for the fourth-round rookie. How bad was it? Well, we speculated that he could find himself in Bill Belichick’s doghouse, somewhere no rookie wants to be.
However, Stevenson might have an extra life thanks to some neat detective work by Matt Chatham of NESN.
As Chatham points out, Stevenson was clearly down by contact before the football was jarred loose.
Upon further review, it looks like Patriots RB Rhamondre Stevenson didn’t fumble in Week 1.
Why was this angle not available for Sunday’s refs? Elbows are usually the go-to piece of evidence on close fumble calls, but this snapshot literally shows Stevenson sitting on the turf before the Dolphins defender came in for the strip.
In fairness to the refs, it looked like a fumble in real time. However, Chatham’s analysis is just further evidence that refs aren’t properly equipped to make calls like this, especially when a player is surrounded by a horde of defenders and there isn’t a clear view of when the ball came loose.
In no way are we saying that this call cost the Patriots the game. That came later in the fourth quarter when Harris decided to put the pigskin on the turf. The Dolphins didn’t turn Stevenson’s fumble into any points … but it certainly would’ve helped if the Pats could’ve continued their drive near midfield.
Perhaps this discovery means that Stevenson won’t get benched in Week 2? After all, Harris, for as much success as he found on the ground, looked absolutely gassed before he committed his back-breaking fumble.
Maybe JJ Taylor is in for an increased workload, but Stevenson surely shouldn’t ride the pine for getting lit up in pass protection, right? If you couple the missed assignment AND the fumble, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
However, replay clearly shows that Stevenson didn’t turn the football over. Hopefully Belichick catches wind of this, because it’d be a little draconian (even for him) to bench Stevenson given what we now know about the play.