FOXBORO, Mass. — Anyone who prematurely branded Sony Michel a draft bust must have felt pretty foolish Sunday afternoon.
After struggling in his first two games for the New England Patriots, Michel looked exactly like the first-round pick he is against the Miami Dolphins, carrying the ball 25 times for 112 yards and his first NFL touchdown as the Patriots bulldozed their way to a 38-7 victory at Gillette Stadium.
“I would say it was execution,” Michel said. “It’s all about executing — how you’re executing the plays. I did a little bit better job this week than I did last week.”
Michel, who missed the entire preseason and Week 1 with a knee injury, quickly found his stride in his first home game as a Patriot. Though he was stopped for no gain on the Patriots’ first offensive snap, the rookie running back had a string of three consecutive carries later in that same drive that gained 9, 13 and 14 yards.
That series ended with Michel failing to cross the goal line on two rushes from inside the 5-yard line, but he found paydirt early in the fourth quarter, rushing 10 yards for a touchdown on a pitch from quarterback Tom Brady.
As was the case for much of the afternoon, Michel benefited from textbook blocking on his score, with tight end Dwayne Allen leveling Dolphins defensive end Charles Harris with a crackback block and left tackle Trent Brown serving as a one-man caravan for him to follow into the end zone.
“We called the play in the huddle, and everybody executed their jobs,” said Michel, who also had a 23-yard run earlier in the game that helped set up a touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett. “And that was the goal: do your job and great things will happen. The offensive line did a great job. The tackle did a great job going out there to get that block and me just reading it.”
Asked what he saw on his read, the soft-spoken Georgia product simply replied: “An open edge.”
Michel faced criticism after his inconsistent performances in losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars (10 carries, 34 yards) and Detroit Lions (14 carries, 50 yards) but said his confidence never wavered. He credited his veteran teammates for this and viewed his early struggles as an important learning experience.
“I would say I’m blessed, because going through times that aren’t the brightest helps you learn so much,” Michel said. “I’m blessed to say I had those times that I could learn from. A lot of people don’t. A lot of people may have those times coming, and they may not know how to react to them.
“But me, I had a rough start, but I’ve got great guys around me to encourage me, to stand next to me. It’s a family in here, so it helps. But you’ve got to just keep pushing and keep fighting.”
Michel wasn’t the only offensive standout in Sunday’s blowout win. Fellow running back James White also had 112 yards from scrimmage (44 rushing, 68 receiving) and a rushing touchdown, and White, Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson all caught touchdown passes from Brady.
Even newcomer Josh Gordon made important contributions in a limited role, catching two passes on two targets for 32 yards while also drawing a defensive penalty to extend a drive on third down and delivering a key block on White’s rushing touchdown.
“We did a lot of things better (Sunday) than we did the past two weeks, so I think it’s a combination of everything,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “Each player, all of the other players with them, our overall operation functioned as a unit. We just all performed at a higher level, which we needed to do.”