Rhamondre Stevenson could be set to shine for the New England Patriots

Rhamondre Stevenson #38 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
Rhamondre Stevenson #38 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots, fresh off a bye week in Week 14, are gearing up to face off against the up-and-coming Indianapolis Colts in a pivotal conference matchup tonight. The Pats and Colts are two of the hottest teams in the league right now, and the result of this game will have huge implications for not only the two teams involved in the game, but the rest of the AFC as a whole.

Unfortunately for the Patriots, they were dealt a pretty large blow when it was announced yesterday afternoon that Damien Harris would be forced to miss this contest with a hamstring injury he picked up in New England’s most recent win over the Buffalo Bills. Despite some early season struggles, Harris has been one of the best running backs in the league when he’s on the field, and he has played a big role in New England’s midseason turnaround.

But when one door closes, another one opens, and that’s certainly true for rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson. Stevenson played a big role in wearing down Buffalo’s defense in their Week 13 win, and he figures to be the primary back featured in this one. Stevenson has been gradually getting better as the season has progressed, and he could be set for a breakout performance tonight against the Colts.

The New England Patriots need Rhamondre Stevenson to step up in a big way

After finding himself in head coach Bill Belichick‘s doghouse early this season, Stevenson has returned to the fold in an explosive way over the second half of the season. He’s formed a dominant 1A-1B tandem with Harris, and through their combined efforts, they have helped the New England Patriots ground game pick up over 100 rushing yards in their last nine contests. Now Stevenson finds himself set to take the vast majority of the workload in Harris’ absence.

This isn’t the first time we have seen Stevenson work in the lead role, as he was forced to make a start in Harris’ spot against the Cleveland Browns in Week 10 as well. Stevenson had a phenomenal game that day, as he ran for 100 yards on 20 carries, picking up two touchdowns in the process. That game should provide enough evidence that Stevenson is good enough to handle some extra carries.

Stevenson also took over for Harris once he was forced to leave against Buffalo, and while his final numbers weren’t mind-blowing (78 yards on 24 carries), he was almost always running right into eight or nine man fronts. The fact that he did as well as he did in this game is impressive in it’s own right, and assuming New England throws the ball more than three times in this one, he will have a lot more room to run this time around.

Indianapolis has made it clear in the week leading up to the game they want to make rookie quarterback Mac Jones win this game for New England. While he figures to play a very important role in this game, he won’t be on his own in this one. If Stevenson can consistently pick up yardage against the Colts on the ground, that will make Jones’ job ten times easier.

The Colts are right around the middle of the pack in terms of their run defense, as they allow 111.8 yards per game on the ground, which is 15th in the league. They could also be without one of their top interior presences in Grover Stewart, as he’s questionable after coming down with a non-COVID illness towards the end of the week.

In his two main opportunities as lead back, Stevenson went against two tougher run defenses in the Browns and Bills. In both those scenarios, he exceeded expectations. Despite the Colts saying they are going to make sure the Patriots don’t beat them on the ground, don’t be surprised if Stevenson ends up having a big day on the ground against them.

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With the New England Patriots offensive line at full strength recently, the ground game has been basically unstoppable. They will need that trend to continue if they intend on leaving Lucas Oil Stadium with a win tonight, and with Harris out, that falls squarely on Stevenson’s shoulders. Don’t be surprised in the rookie running back steps up and delivers a big performance just when his team needs one the most.