Patriots

The Patriots can’t stop fumbling at key moments

Damien Harris fumbled again as he crossed the goal line against the Texans.

Patriots fumble
AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith

Statistically, the Patriots are only slightly more likely to fumble than any other NFL team.

After Damien Harris handed the ball back to the Houston Texans crossing the goal line in the first half of Sunday’s game, the Patriots moved into a tie with three other teams — the 49ers, Raiders, and the Texans themselves — for seven fumbles so far this season. More than half of the NFL fumbled the ball five times or more prior to Week 5.

And yet, the Patriots can’t stop dropping the football at critical times. The most recent was Harris’s bobble, which cost the Patriots a chance to enter the halftime locker room with a one-point lead (or tied, given how poorly both teams kicked extra points on Sunday). Harris needed to secure the ball as he crossed into the end zone, but Terrance Mitchell reached in and punched it away at the last possible second. The touchdown call on the field was overturned.

As Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal noted, three of the Patriots’ other fumbles have been incredibly poorly timed as well.

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In his first regular-season game, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson coughed the ball up (although, as NESN’s Matt Chatham showed on Twitter, the call might not have been a good one). Stevenson was inactive for three weeks as a result, and he finally re-entered the Patriots’ lineup on Sunday.

But Stevenson’s fumble was only the second-most costly of the opener — Damien Harris later dropped the ball as the Patriots put together what likely would have been the game-winning drive. Instead of starting their season with a win, the Patriots — now 1-3 — opened up 0-1.

“It sucked,” Harris said the next day. “You never like to lose, obviously, but there’s a lot of football left to play. You can’t spend time lingering on what happened before.”

And finally, the Patriots missed a chance to score against the Buccaneers in Week 4 when J.J. Taylor fumbled in field-goal range. The Patriots later lost the game by less than a field goal in part because Nick Folk was forced to attempt a personal-best field goal in less-than-ideal conditions.

The Patriots have a variety of issues and are two games below .500 as a result, but ball security is one of several pretty direct explanations.

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