Sony Michel is a rookie carrying the bulk of the running back responsibilities for an NFL offense. It sounds like a welcome situation for the Patriots first-round pick, especially after he missed the season opener with a knee injury, but Michel’s two starts have been clouded by defeat.
“If we ain’t winning games, it ain’t fun,” Michel told reporters after the Patriots’ 26-10 loss to the Detroit Lions. “Nothing will make me feel good except for winning games. That’s the purpose, that’s the goal, and that’s what we want to work towards.”
Michel took 14 handoffs from Tom Brady Sunday, rushing for 50 yards on the ground (3.6 yards per carry). Brady also targeted the 23-year-old three times through the air, but Michel was limited to one catch for a one-yard loss by the Detroit defense.
“We just played against a good defense. The [offensive] line went out there and did their best,” Michel said. “Detroit had a good defense. They executed a little bit better than we did. We got to execute together as team.”
The running back is playing over Rex Burkhead. Burkhead was already limited Sunday after suffering a concussion against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and left the Lions matchup with a neck injury. After the game, Brady noted running back James White — who scored the Patriots’ lone touchdown and surpassed Michel’s yardage with half the touches — needs to be more involved in New England’s offense.
“He’s got to be involved.,” Brady said during his postgame news conference. “Guys who can make plays, those are the ones that should be involved, and James is certainly one of them.”
Michel has yet to prove he’s “one of them” at the NFL level. Twice Brady handed off to him on third-and-one, and twice Michel was stopped well short of the first down marker. However, Michel did look sharper in the second half — though he didn’t find any glittering silver lining in the couple stretch plays and tosses during which he nearly broke free.
“It’s football. It’ll be close, but at the end of the day, it didn’t happen. Close is not good enough,” he said.