FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Cordarrelle Patterson has taken 11 traditional handoffs this season.

There were 10 last Monday in Buffalo, where he led the Patriots in rushing. His other carry, oddly enough, was his most forgettable.

Six weeks earlier at Jacksonville, Patterson aligned wide right in an empty formation featuring four wide receivers and tight end Rob Gronkowski. He then motioned into the backfield next to Tom Brady. Brady took the snap, put the ball in Patterson’s belly and watched him barrel ahead for 5 yards.

It was around that time – not last week when New England traveled with two healthy running backs to play the Bills – the idea of playing Patterson as a running back was born. Jeremy Hill had torn his ACL the week prior, Sony Michel had yet to take an NFL snap and the Patriots couldn’t afford to be one-dimensional or predictable against the Jaguars.

But once Michel established himself as the lead back, the staff stashed their Patterson plans. Then Michel went down in Chicago and they dusted those designs off while preparing for Buffalo. Patterson’s offensive snaps had taken a dive since Josh Gordon’s emergence weeks earlier, so he wouldn’t be missed in the wide receiver rotation.

Plus they had a dire need behind Brady.

“There’s a statement for that: Creativity comes out of need,” Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears said. “We needed help. And the solutions were, the answers were not too many. There were not too many choices and there was one looking right at us. And he was willing.”

DOLPHINS: Coach Adam Gase offered a passionate defense of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, saying Tannehill has showed improvement that continued into the start of this season.

Tannehill will miss his fourth consecutive game Sunday because of an injury to his throwing shoulder. Brock Osweiler has gone 1-2 as the starter but has played well.

THURSDAY’S GAME

49ERS 34, RAIDERS 3: Nick Mullens threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns for the most productive NFL debut since the merger, leading San Francisco over visiting Oakland.

George Kittle made an impressive one-handed catch on a 71-yard play that set up his touchdown from Mullens and Pierre Garcon caught his first TD pass in two seasons with the 49ers (2-7), who snapped a six-game losing streak and won for just the second time in two years without Jimmy Garpppolo at quarterback.

Mullens got the nod after C.J. Beathard injured his right wrist last week and made the most of his opportunity against a defense for the Raiders (1-7) that is one of the worst in the league.

The former undrafted free agent out of Southern Mississippi got rid of the ball quickly and took advantages of several breakdowns in coverage for big plays, including the 24-yard TD pass to a wide-open Garcon on the opening drive.

Mullens finished 16 for 22 and had a 151.9 passer rating, the highest for a quarterback with at least 15 attempts in an NFL debut since the 1970 merger. He threw TD passes to Garcon and Kendrick Bourne on the opening two drives and coasted from there to the most lopsided win in this series since San Francisco won the first meeting 38-7 in 1970.