FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Devin McCourty has known for a long time how tough a running back Dion Lewis is. When McCourty was a senior at Rutgers, Lewis was a freshman at Pittsburgh.

“He torched us for 190,” said McCourty in the locker room after the Patriots defeated the Miami Dolphins 35-17 at Gillette Stadium.

Actually, it was only 180, with two touchdowns, in a 24-17 win in 2009. But, hey, why quibble over 10 yards?

McCourty, along with all his teammates, certainly enjoyed watching Lewis run Sunday afternoon. Lewis, 27, became the first Patriots running back to go over 100 yards in a game this season when he rushed for a career-high 112 on 15 carries.

As a team, the Patriots rushed for a season-high 196 to complement Tom Brady’s four touchdown passes. And as Brady pointed out in his postgame press conference, as the weather gets colder and passing gets more difficult, the running game is going to become very important.

“If you can do that, and obviously pass the ball well, we’re going to be a pretty good offense,” he said.

And Lewis, who just two years ago tore his left ACL in the ninth game of the season, appears to be taking the lead role. After getting just 12 carries in the first four games (2-2 record), he is averaging 12 carries in the seven-game streak. He is now leading New England with 498 yards rushing.

And he was duly unimpressed with his first 100-yard rushing game.

“It means absolutely nothing,” he said in the locker room. “I’m just happy for the win. I’m here to do whatever I can to help the team win.”

Lewis doesn’t like to talk much about himself.

But his teammates will. He is, they say, a great example of keeping the faith and working hard. “You look at him,” said Harmon, “and where he’s come from …”

He was drafted in the fifth round by Philadelphia in 2011, traded to Cleveland in 2013. He spent that entire season on injured reserve, then was released by the Browns. He signed with Indianapolis in 2014 and lasted six days before the Colts released him.

He was out of football that entire year, before the Patriots signed him as a free agent on Feb. 6, 2015.

Two years, out of the game. Then, after an impressive start for the Patriots, the knee injury.

That’s why his teammates, even those competing with him for playing time, cheer for Lewis.

“He did a tremendous job today,” said Rex Burkhead, who rushed for 50 yards and scored two touchdowns. “He was making guys miss, finishing runs and really just giving this offense a spark of energy. It’s run to watch and all of the running backs really enjoy it.”

Lewis said he’s healthy now, even recovered from the hamstring injury he suffered on the last play of regulation in New England’s improbable 34-28 overtime victory over Atlanta in last February’s Super Bowl.

And he looks it. He’s only 5-foot-8 and 195 pounds but he combines power with his speed.

“He’s tough,” said McCourty. “He runs with anger at times. A lot of people think because he’s a little guy, you can get a hand or two on him and you’ll be able to bring him down.”

It doesn’t happen that way.

“He can dip under you, he can shake you, he can spin off of contact,” said Harmon. “And people don’t understand how strong he is.”

Maybe they will now. Sunday against Miami, he showed his power, he showed his speed, he showed his agility.

On New England’s first play of its second series, Lewis took a handoff from Brady up the middle. Miami’s Andre Branch was on the ground, in the hole, so Lewis simply jumped over him and then went off for a 22-yard run.

“I’m just getting a chance,” said Lewis, when asked why he fit in so well in New England and not anywhere else. “I needed a chance. Now I just have to keep working hard.”

But don’t think for one minute that Lewis has forgotten how it felt to be released by those other teams.

“I just work every day like I’m trying to prove something,” he said. “Game in, game out, practice in, practice out, I’m just trying to learn, just trying to get better and keep growing as a player.”

He shares the backfield with Burkhead, Super Bowl hero James White, Mike Gillislee and Brandon Bolden.

He knows he can’t let up for a minute, or one of those guys will take his carries.

They push each other. And they thrive on the competition. But they also support each other in all aspects.

“We’re great off the field, we’re always around each other,” said Lewis. “You probably won’t see one of us without one of the other five. Of course we compete. But we’re the first people to cheer each other on when somebody makes a play.

“That’s what a team is about, that’s what family is about. That’s what we have here.”