Patriots Gridiron News: Sony Michel can carry team to Super Bowl glory

FOXBOROUGH, MA - DECEMBER 23: Sony Michel #26 of the New England Patriots runs with the ball during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - DECEMBER 23: Sony Michel #26 of the New England Patriots runs with the ball during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

With Tom Brady not looking like himself over the past few weeks, the New England Patriots have leaned on their running game, particularly Sony Michel.

New England Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel certainly knows about playing in big games.  Coming out of the University of Georgia, he has had his share of big stage performances, but can he do it at the next level?

That question will be answered within the coming weeks, but as of the end of the NFL regular season Michel has grown into a player the team has leaned on.

How did that happen so fast for a running back taken at the end of the first round?

We can start with injuries.

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Though Michel started the season sidelined due to a knee injury, a season-ending injured suffered by Jeremy Hill combined with Rex Burkhead being sidelined due to a neck injury pushed Sony Michel into extensive action very quick.  At first, it didn’t go so well as the rookie struggled to get going in his first couple games.

Still, he showed promise and eventually he broke out with a 112-yard rushing performance against the Miami Dolphins in Week 4.  He backed that up with a couple more solid rushing performances against the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs.

Suddenly, the New England Patriots had themselves a running game.  With Josh Gordon now in the mix, Sony Michel and the running game was a nice compliment to Tom Brady and the passing attack.  But whether the team could rely on a player with an injury history quickly came into question when he went down with his own injury against the Chicago Bears in Week 7.

It actually looked bleak as his knee was twisted in a gruesome fashioned.  Luckily for the Patriots and Michel, it was just a sprain that kept him out for three weeks.  It was a setback, but only took a week for him to get back to the player he was turning into prior to the injury.

A 133-yard rushing performance against the New York Jets in Week 13 showed just how valuable Michel could be in the offense.  By then, Brady and the passing game begin to show struggles and it was evident, the team would need the balance of their running game to make any noise down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs.

Value in the playoffs

In finishing the 2018 NFL season with a total of 931 yards and 6 rushing touchdowns in just 13 games played, Sony Michel will be an important factor.

As team’s will try to tee off on Tom Brady while taking away his top targets, Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead will come to play valuable roles in how the team will be able to move the ball.

The multiple looks the New England Patriots can show will have defenses guessing as all three of their running backs can run or go out for pass routes.  That’s actually apart of Sonny Michel’s game that has not been showcases yet.  He does have an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.  That could be a wrinkle Patriots offense coordinator Josh McDaniels exploits come playoff time.

If you remember, before going down against the Bears in that Week 7 game, the team started to feature Sony Michel as an all-around back.  Is he ready for that kind of pressure in big games?

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Bill Belihcick certainly thinks so and has praised the rookie running back for his mature side.

"“I think [his maturity has] really been a strength of his,” Belichick said back in November, via WEEI.  “He’s obviously had a lot of football experience and comes from a very good program.  He’s been in a lot of big games.  He’s been in a lot of critical football situations.  He has a lot of poise and has a good even manner about him in terms of learning, correcting mistakes, having urgency but in a balance where it doesn’t take away from the execution and the focus of the assignment and the way that things need to be done.”"

With Tom Brady as the quarterback, the amount of pressure will really never truly weigh on any other player’s shoulders.  However, if Brady is not Brady of old in the playoffs, Sony Michel could have the ball in his hands a lot whether it is running between the tackles or catching the ball out of the backfield.

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As a player who has been successful on the big stage, he just may flourish in the role and be a reason (not the only reason) the New England Patriots advance to another Super Bowl.  Especially if the Patriots do have to travel to Arrowhead to face the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs offense.  A heavy dose of Michel could keep the ball out of the hands of Patrick Mahomes II.