The New England Patriots finally unleashed Sony Michel on Sunday, and the numbers suggest the rookie running back had his official coming-out party.
Michel amassed 112 rushing yards and a touchdown on 25 carries in New England’s 38-7 rout of the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium, becoming just the second Patriots player to eclipse 100 rushing yards in a game since 2016. (Dion Lewis did it twice in 2017.)
But numbers can be deceiving, and critics of Michel could point to this stat: 17 of his 25 carries went for 3 yards or fewer, including a string of seven such rushes in a row between the second and third quarters.
Bill Belichick wasn’t having any of that criticism Monday morning, though.
“Well, I think that’s some of what the running game is,” the Patriots head coach said on a conference call. “I mean, not every play is an 80-yard touchdown, just like every pass isn’t an 80-yard touchdown. There’s incomplete passes, and some runs gain less than others. You hope that you stay with it and in the end, you have production in that overall phase of the game.”
Belichick was right: Michel also ripped off seven runs of at least 9 yards — including a game-high 23-yarder — to finish the day with 4.5 yards per carry, his highest clip through three games. Collectively, the Patriots averaged 4.4 yards per rush, totaling a season-high 175 yards on a whopping 40 carries.
As for Michel’s short runs: Belichick didn’t seem to equate them to any lack of vision or explosiveness from the Georgia product.
“You’ve got to at least create a stalemate on the line of scrimmage to give the back a chance,” Belichick said. “But it seemed like Miami had some very athletic players, and when they bring their linebackers and (Dolphins safety T.J.) McDonald off the edge, a lot of times those guys are penetrating into the backfield, and it led to a couple zero or one yard gains. Then you hit a toss outside for 15 yards or get a play up the middle for 10 yards, and those kind of even it out.
“So, look, not every play is an 80-yard touchdown in this league. I mean, it just doesn’t happen that way.”
After a slow start to the season, Sunday’s game was Michel’s best overall body of work as a pro. So, to steal a line from the Philadelphia 76ers, Belichick would like us to trust the process.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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