New England Patriots running back Sony Michel was the team’s top breakout candidate this season after an impressive postseason campaign as a rookie in 2018.
Instead, Michel disappointed through the first 10 games of the season as the Patriots suffered injuries along their offensive line and at fullback. The Georgia product started to show his breakout ability Sunday in New England’s 13-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys. It might not be a complete coincidence that one of Michel’s best games of the 2019 season coincided with left tackle Isaiah Wynn’s return.
The 2018 first-rounder carried the ball 20 times for 85 yards against the Cowboys. Those 85 yards included three separate carries that resulted in 4-yard losses, none of which were Michel’s fault, meaning his performance was actually better than his raw numbers indicate.
Michel ripped off four of his 13 longest runs of the season in Week 12. He has just 18 carries for 10 yards or more this season but had four such runs Sunday. Michel’s blocking was definitely better, and Wynn’s athleticism at left tackle was a welcome addition. Michel also was running more decisively, with better power and decision-making.
On Michel’s first run of the night, he made the first man miss and ran past cornerback Byron Jones. If Michel had been stopped in the backfield, it would have been easy to say he had nowhere to run. Instead, he created yardage on his own. On a run later on the Patriots’ first drive, left guard Joe Thuney showed impressive agility on a pull, and tight end Matt LaCosse delivered a nice block to spring Michel.
The 24-year-old showed patience, quick acceleration and made a good decision on his longest run of the night, a 17-yarder in the first quarter. Center Ted Karras also did a very nice job of getting out to the second level to block linebacker Sean Lee.
Michel ripped off a 15-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Cowboys defensive tackle Antwaun Woods got a great jump on the snap, but Karras cleared him out of the play, opening up a huge hole in the middle of the defense for Michel to accelerate through after a quick cut.
The Patriots needed a first down late in the game on second-and-5, and Michel produced with a 12-yard carry. Wynn, fullback/linebacker Elandon Roberts and tight end Ben Watson all opened up space for Michel to run through.
Michel forced six missed tackles and averaged 4.25 yards after contact per carry Sunday. His missed tackle rate was 30 percent. Entering Sunday’s game, Michel had a missed tackle rate of just 9.7 percent, and he was averaging 2.08 yards after contact per carry.
If Michel can produce like he did Sunday for the rest of the season, the Patriots’ offense should start to see some drastic improvement. He has to prove Week 12 wasn’t just an anomaly.
More observations from our film review:
— If you didn’t already know Stephon Gilmore is the best cornerback in the NFL, then Sunday should have solidified it. Gilmore blanked Amari Cooper and had one of the better interceptions you’ll see while covering the star receiver.
— Rookie wide receiver Jakobi Meyers is lanky, but he showed admirable effort on a 32-yard reception in the second quarter. He broke one tackle and drove a defender 8 yards downfield later on the catch-and-run.
— Cornerback Jonathan Jones collided with Gilmore while covering Randall Cobb on a 59-yard catch and run. Without the collision, it’s doubtful that big play occurs. Give credit to Jones, cornerback J.C. Jackson and safety Devin McCourty for running down Cobb on the play.