There has been a lot of talk about Sony Michel’s place in Patriots lore since he was drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. Many criticized Bill Belichick for reaching for a running back with injury concerns. Others criticized Sony for being “soft” and not breaking tackles. And he was often compared to his draft-mate Nick Chubb of the Browns, who has put up gaudier numbers while being drafted 6 slots after Michel.
But however you look at it, one thing is certain to me: the Patriots would not have won Super Bowl LIII without Sony Michel. But before we get to that, let’s take a quick look through some of his highlights as a member of the Patriots backfield.
Sony’s first NFL TD
The Pats had struggled to start the season and were sitting at 1-2 after back-to-back losses to the Jaguars and Lions in games where the offense struggled. The undefeated Miami Dolphins were coming to town and were poised to take the AFC East crown from the perennial champions. Or so they thought. Amongst the Patriots route was Sony Michel’s first TD in the NFL, a smooth 10 yard sweep set up by some great blocking outside.
Longest TD Run
One week later the Patriots hosted the Colts, and Michel took the Tom Brady handoff 34 yards for the score, showing off a strong stiff-arm and then tightroping down the sideline to get into the end zone.
Great run vs Washington
And finally, I wanted to show a run that showcased all of Sony’s skills in one neat package. On this TD run against Washington in 2019 he shows off his patience at the line of scrimmage to be able to pick through the openings in the line, and then a quick burst to outrun the second wave of defenders, before fighting off the last defender to get himself into the end zone.
Now that we’ve covered that, let’s talk about why Michel really holds a place in my heart. The 2018 playoffs.
2018 Playoff Run
Towards the end of the 2018 regular season, the Patriots offense was struggling. They had lost back-to-back games to the Dolphins (in the Miami Miracle game) and then against the Steelers in Pittsburgh that had people questioning whether this was a playoff-caliber team. And then their leading WR Josh Gordon was re-suspended for the season.
Almost overnight, the team converted to a run-heavy, play action team. Sony Michel led the newfound attack, rushing for 116 against the Buffalo Bills the next week. He followed that up with a record setting 6 rushing TDs in the playoffs; most by a rookie.
He started by running for 129 yards and 3 TDs vs the Chargers in the AFC Divisional round, including this beauty.
He followed up the next week with another 2 TD runs in a shootout with the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game, including a 10 yard run on 4th down.
And then to top it all off, Sony scored the only TD of Super Bowl LIII to officially put the Pats on top for good.
While some may argue Sony hasn’t completely lived up to his first round draft status, it’s hard to argue that the Patriots would have lifted the Lombardi trophy at the end of the 2018 season without him, and for that I will be forever grateful.