FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots’ defense faces their biggest challenge of the season Sunday night when they take on the Kansas City Chiefs’ high-powered offense. The Patriots’ offense has it a little bit easier.
The Chiefs rank 31st in pass defense after allowing 1,715 yards through five weeks. They rank dead last in rushing yards per attempt, allowing 5.8 yards per carry.
So, what’s the best way for the Patriots to eat up clock, slow down the game and take advantage of the Chiefs’ biggest weakness? A heavy dose of rookie running back Sony Michel early in the game.
Regardless of whether the Patriots win or lose the coin toss and receive or defer, they should heavily rely on Michel early in the game. Fortunately for the Patriots, Michel has been improving every week.
It feels like a long time ago that Michel was being touted by some overreacting media members as a wasted first-round pick. He has 67 carries for 294 yards in four games and has picked up 210 yards on 43 carries, averaging 4.9 yards per carry, over the last two weeks.
Going a little deeper, Michel has averaged 2.91 yards after contact over his last two games. He averaged just 2.17 yards after contact in his first two games.
“Just steady getting better,” Michel said Wednesday in the Patriots’ locker room. “I feel like I’ve taken little steps, getting better each and every week, each and every day. That’s the kind of goal I set for myself. The standard here is try to get better each and every day, every week.”
And Michel isn’t satisfied with the strides he’s already made. In fact, he still wants to improve in “all areas.”
“That’s the good thing that I know I have so much to improve on,” Michel said. “You name it, I have to improve it. I’m excited because every time I see there’s room for improvement, that’s an opportunity for me.”
Michel was asked if it’s nice that he’s succeeding while he’s learning. Michel wasn’t so sure about that wording.
“Succeeding? I don’t know if I would take it that far,” Michel said. “It’s great to be winning, but I have confidence because I’m learning so much. Every day it’s always something I can learn from, something I walk out of the building, and I’m like, ‘Damn, I didn’t know that yesterday.’ That’s what gives me confidence that I can walk into this building and know I’m going to learn something new.”
After missing Week 1 with an injury, Michel is leading rookie running backs in carries, yards, yards after contact and forced missed tackles. He also hasn’t fumbled, though he has dropped a pass.
If Michel doesn’t consider that success, then he has lofty standards for his play. This could be another week for Michel to thrive.