The New England Patriots are one of the hottest teams in professional football. Winners in five of their last six contests, a thoroughly dominant showing over the Cleveland Browns in Week 10 serves as their latest impressive achievement. Rookie signal-caller Mac Jones is gaining confidence on a weekly basis while proving teams can still reign victorious with a traditional pocket passer, but it's been an aggressive defense and top-notch rushing offense that has led to New England's stark turnaround.
New England's ability to pick up chunks of yardage on the ground against an overmatched Browns defense was surprisingly efficient despite being without the services of their leading rusher Damien Harris. Despite being short-handed, New England's rushing attack championed its way to an astonishing 186 yards via 32 carries between four ball-carriers. The majority of that workload was carried by rookie fourth-round pick Rhamondre Stevenson, who accounted for 114 total yards and two touchdowns on 24 touches. Cleveland's run defense had no answer for Stevenson, who averaged a healthy five yards per carry.
Harris has reportedly recovered from the concussion that held him out of Week 10 and appears set to return to the field for Thursday night's contest against the Atlanta Falcons. With their leading rusher now back in the fold, it will be interesting to monitor how Belichick and veteran offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels utilize Stevenson going forward. Harris has been an excellent ball-carrier throughout 2021 in his own right. The former Alabama standout has totaled a team-leading 547 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, but New England would be wise to move forward with a dual-threat backfield that allows Stevenson to get more involved on a consistent basis. Stevenson simply flashed too much big-play potential to be glued to the bench now that Harris has returned.
Stevenson's ability to make the most of his Week 10 showcase was hardly a surprise to those of us who have been fortunate to tune into him as of late. In a convincing Week 9 victory over the Carolina Panthers, Stevenson turned 12 touches into an incredible 106 yards, including an explosive 41-yard reception.
It's the type of skill-set Stevenson flashed throughout his collegiate career despite entering the league with minimal tread on his tires. Stevenson carried the ball just 165 times across two seasons at Oklahoma after transferring there from Cerritos junior college. An old-school runner that fits the Belichick mold to perfection, Stevenson possesses excellent contact balance while punishing would-be tacklers that attempt to tackle him high.
Thursday night's running back usage will be worth monitoring. New England employs a bunch of capable ball-carriers in their backfield and spreading the love more evenly by ensuring Stevenson sees a minimum of 10-12 touches per contest would be a wise strategy to employ as the Patriots continue to embark on an impressive win streak that is taking the AFC by storm.