Patriots

Sony Michel on Patriots’ running backs: ‘We came together and just played hard. That’s what James White does.’

Michel rushed for 117 yards in the Patriots' win over the Raiders.

Patriots running back Sony Michel broke out for two long carries against the Raiders. AP Photo/Steven Senne

Sony Michel and the Patriots’ backfield had themselves a day against the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Patriots rushed for 250 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 36-20 win on Sunday. Michel led the way in the ground game, rushing for 117 yards on nine carries.

The big rushing day for the Patriots was a huge improvement from their Week 2 performance against the Seahawks. They had just 67 rushing yards as a team, with quarterback Cam Newton accounting for 47 of them.

They also had to do it without veteran James White, who missed his second consecutive game on Sunday in the wake of his father’s death.

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Michel told reporters after the game that he’s been in contact with White and that Sunday’s team performance was inspired by White.

“We’re always thinking about him,” Michel said. “Especially, I can speak for myself, just thinking about him a lot, texting him, making sure he’s good, staying high, high spirits. The rest of the backs, I believe, did the same thing, and we all came together and just played hard.

“That’s what James White does. He doesn’t complain. He goes to work every day. He’s one of those guys that I’m sure you hear him being talked up all the time, but it’s who he is.”

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Michel had two rushes that were pivotal on what ended up being scoring drives for the Patriots in the second half. The first was a 38-yard run on the Patriots’ second play of their first drive of the second half. The run got the Patriots to the Raiders’ 25-yard line. The drive ended with a Rex Burkhead five-yard touchdown run to put the Patriots up 20-10.

Michel’s second big run came on the Patriots’ next drive when he had a 48-yard carry, bringing the Patriots to the Raiders’ 13-yard line. The Patriots weren’t able to fully capitalize on Michel’s career-long run, settling for a field goal to take a 23-10 lead.

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“It kind of broke open for me,” Michel said of his career-long run. “I felt pretty good out there.”

Entering Sunday’s game Michel had never had a 35-plus yard run in his career, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss. He did that twice on Sunday.

“You always want to create big plays,” Michel said after the game. “It’s good for our guys to know that we’re capable of doing it. It builds confidence and we want to continue to do it. When we do it, it brings that energy.”

Sunday’s 117-yard performance marked the fifth time Michel’s rushed for 100-plus yards in a game in his career. It was also a big performance for Michel as he struggled in the team’s first two games of the season. He had 17 carries for just 56 yards – good for 3.3 yards per carry – to start the year.

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Burkhead, who had 98 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns on Sunday, praised his fellow running back for his impressive performance.

“He was tremendous today,” Burkhead said. “Seeing him develop over the past couple years, what he did today, making guys miss in the open field, really finishing runs, I’m not surprised because I see him practice every single day and I see the work he puts in. I’m as happy as could be for him.”

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