With Damien Harris out for Monday night’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, the New England Patriots offense found itself in an even tougher position when Ramondre Stevenson left early with an injury.
Without Harris and Stevenson, it turned the spotlight on the unproven rookie backs of Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. And they were up to the challenge in an urgent situation.
Each breathed some life into a lackluster New England offense as both found the end zone for their first career touchdowns in a 27-13 victory at State Farm Stadium. Kevin Harris finished with 26 yards on eight carries and Strong had a team-high 70 yards on five carries.
The two certainly didn’t seem overwhelmed by the big moment, perhaps because of the words of encouragement they received from second-year quarterback Mack Jones, who was in both backs’ ears, especially reminding Kevin Harris of his collegiate heritage.
“It was a little bit of a tight game for us with injuries, but you can’t control that,” Jones told reporters after the win, on video provided by the team. “Obviously,” Mondre fell. He is one of our best players. These guys came up and obviously with Damien, they had to step up. What I told them, for Kevin, “It’s just like SEC football. So go out there and do your thing. You’ve played some really good teams and that’s it.”
Harris, a sixth-round pick of the Patriots, played at the University of South Carolina, where the sturdy 5-foot-10, 220-pound back led the SEC in rushing with 1,138 yards during the 2020 regular season as a sophomore.
Strong doesn’t have an SEC on his resume, a recent 24-year-old playing college football at South Dakota State. The Patriots selected Strong again in the fourth round. And even though Strong had just one carry of the season before Monday night, Jones is keeping the same message for Strong.