FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Damien Harris has left zero doubt; he's the top dog in the Patriots backfield. The 2019 third-round pick enjoyed a career night during New England's upset win over the Baltimore Ravens, totaling 121 yards on the ground on a 5.5 yards per carry clip. From the jump, the Patriots leaned on Harris to establish themselves offensively and create a foundation of physicality that helped lead them to the win.
The second-year back saw the first five touches of the night, turning them into 21 yards, and that success on the ground continued throughout the evening as the Patriots imposed their will while rushing for a total of 174 yards.
"We knew we were facing a tough, physical team that kind of wanted to bully us and push us around, but we wanted to stand up for ourselves and go out there and show how tough and physical we are," said Harris, who also admitted he was on "cloud nine" after the career night. "That was kind of the mentality of the whole team tonight and we went out there and competed hard for 60 minutes and we were able to come out with a great win against a great team."
This was a sneaky pivotal game for Harris, who was questionable heading into Sunday with chest and ankle injures. With Sony Michel eligible to come off injured reserve, it was not only important for Harris to be available for the Patriots against the Ravens, but a strong outing had the possibility of cementing him as the starter even in Michel's return.
"It was important for me to show that I am going to do whatever it takes to come out here and help this team be successful," Harris said of playing through injury. "Playing in this game was super important because it was such a good team that we were going to be playing and we knew that if we could come out here and play the way we knew we were capable of playing that we would have a chance. I wanted to come out here and be a part of it and I wanted to do my part and help this team win."
Because both of these backs have yet to be healthy at the same time this season, it was going to be rather interesting to see how the carries would be divvied up once Michel, the Week 1 starter, was activated off injured reserve. While that workload will still be worthwhile to pay attention to, it is now crystal clear from Sunday's performance that Harris is the top back out of this grouping.
Through six games this season, Harris has 471 yards and is averaging a little over 5.5 yards per carry. He turned in his third 100-yard rushing performance of the season in Week 10, putting him behind only Derrick Henry (five), Dalvin Cook (four), and Ronald Jones (four) in the entire NFL. While it may be tough to do a stat-for-stat comparison between Harris and Michel, the simple eye test shows Harris having much more burst and big-play ability than Michel has shown since being drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Georgia.
Even as the backfield reaches its full strength, the pecking order should continue to begin with Harris, who has taken hold of this starting spot and has, quite literally, run away with it.