Super Bowl LIII was far from a classic, we can say that much. In a largely defensive affair, the New England Patriots emerged 13-3 winners over a shell-shocked Los Angeles Rams side. The aforementioned Rams completely underprepared for the masterful witchcraft that Bill Belichick drew up in order to prevent their offence from hitting their stride in any form whatsoever. Let’s also not forget that the Patriots largely struggled against the Rams’ excellent defence too, however, one athlete continued his excellent form from where he left off on the grandest stage of them all. That being Sony Michel, of course.
Somewhat Disappointing Rookie Year
Sony Michel’s rookie year was deemed average at best for many, who felt his production wasn’t at the standard of what a first round selection should be.
He concluded the season having featured in 13 games, 8 of which he started. Through those, Michel contributed 931 yards and 6 touchdowns on 209 rushing attempts. That total averaged approximately 4.5 yards per carry across the season. His rushing yard tally ranked fourth amongst all rookie halfbacks, as Saquon Barkley (1,307), Phillip Lindsay (1,037) and Nick Chubb (996) surpassed him across the regular season statistically.
Sony Michel was somewhat hit and miss for the majority of the season. Although, I was mightily impressed on several occasions. Notably his first breakout game against the Miami Dolphins in week 4 when he rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown on 26 attempts. This performance marked the first 100-yard rushing performance by a Patriot rookie since 2012. In addition, his best performance of the season came against another divisional rival, the New York Jets. In that game, he rushed for a career-high 133 yards and notched a touchdown. This was the third time he surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark in his professional career. That marked another Patriot record, as he became the first player to break the century rushing yard tally three times in one season since 1998.
After the Patriots clinched the AFC East, they also solidified their role as #2 seed in the AFC, which presented them with a bye week in the Wildcard Round. Regardless, it was officially Sony Michel season.
A Masterful Postseason
A lot of critics had written the Patriots off when they encountered the mighty challenge of dismissing the Los Angeles Chargers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. This underdog approach stuck with the Pats, who took the mentality and ran with it, which in my opinion was one of the most integral factors in their success this season. In the game, Michel rushed for 129 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-28 victory. It was a truly emphatic demonstration, within which his O-linemen produced multiple holes for him to find success.
By the time the AFC Championship matchup rolled around, everybody was back on the “don’t write off the Patriots train”. This didn’t matter however, as the Patriots stole a 37-31 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime which inevitably triggered the whole of the nation. Michel once again dominated, rushing for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns whilst breaking the NFL postseason record for touchdowns by a rookie.
Despite Michel’s exquisite form in the postseason, his former teammate Todd Gurley remained critical of his ability. In the press conference prior to the Super Bowl, he had this to say about Michel: “I remember when he first came in, he couldn’t run and catch. I had to teach him how to do all that stuff.” Adding: “Hopefully everything I taught him, he doesn’t do it and he just plays like he used to play before I taught him everything.” As per standard, less than a week later, the Patriots critics, including Gurley, were once again defeated.
Lone Super Bowl Touchdown Scorer
Gurley’s critical analysis of Sony Michel appeared to work wonders for the rookie, who embraced the stage, and the hate, by scoring the only touchdown of the Super Bowl. He also registered 94 yards on 18 carries as well as his touchdown, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
Overall, Sony Michel recorded 336 rushing yards which led the league among running backs in the postseason. His 6 rushing touchdowns in the playoffs totalled the same amount he mustered all season, whilst that tally remained one more than what the Los Angeles Rams registered as a team both in rushing and passing throughout their journey to the Super Bowl.
In my opinion, Sony Michel’s contributions throughout the playoffs were just as integral to the Patriots’ success as Tom Brady, and even the Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman.
Since winning it all on Sunday, he appeared on the “Jimmy Kimmel Show”. His appearance on the show was fantastic in my opinion and demonstrated exactly what Sony Michel is all about. A humble, charismatic young man, who is as talented on the field as he is genuine off of it.
Image Credits – Robert Deutsch USA TODAY SPORTS.