Sony Michel recognized he was beginning to repeat himself, but the rookie running back wanted to emphasize his point: the Patriots’ offensive line provided the spark for his sparkling playoff debut.
Michel carried the ball 24 times in New England’s 41-28 divisional round dismantling of the Los Angeles Chargers. He finished Sunday’s game with 129 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, padding his stat line with a 9-yard reception.
Asked about his second score, a 14-yard burst through the Chargers’ defense followed by a pylon dive, Michel said it was similar to most of his runs on the day in that he simply had to stay patient.
“Offensive line — I’m going to keep saying it over and over — did a great job, had a great week of preparation,” the 23-year-old told reporters postgame. “I just had to be patient and just let things develop. That’s what happened.”
Although the touchdowns — all three of which came before halftime — might have been more important to the victory, Michel’s 40-yard second quarter scamper was equally exciting. He took the handoff from Tom Brady and bounced outside before cutting through the defensive front. Michel looked to be in the clear and en route to another six points until Los Angeles safety Derwin James hauled him to the turf inside the 10-yard line. Rex Burkhead punched into the end zone two plays later.
Michel noted that because the offensive lineman and receivers executed their blocking assignments, there was “a wide open hole” waiting for him.
“Anybody could’ve ran through it,” he said.
The rookie acknowledged he could have broken the goal line on the run.
“Every play, the mindset is to gain great yardage and score a touchdown. I mean, there was daylight in front of me,” Michel said. “There was really no reason why I shouldn’t have scored. But, you know, it played out how it played out. There’s great players on the other side of the ball, made a great play.”
The Patriots utilized Michel and fellow running back James White to full effect against the Chargers, chewing 38 minutes and 20 seconds off the clock. Michel recognized “it helps” when the opposing defense has to spend long stretches on the field.
“That’s the kind of football we want to play,” he said. “We want to drive the ball, we want to keep the ball, keep the possession. I think we did a good job of that. Guys just kind of stayed focused and kept executing.”