Michel lights up red zone
Rookie rolls in playoff debut
FOXBORO — Rookie tailback Sony Michel was a red zone sensation in the first half of yesterday’s 41-28 blitz of the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC Divisional Round game at Gillette Stadium.
Michel set a personal standard in his NFL playoff debut that will be difficult to duplicate when the Patriots engage the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC title game next Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
The 5-11, 205-pound, first round pick out of Georgia equaled a playoff team record with three rushing touchdowns, all of which were scored in the first half and originated from the red zone.
Michel shares the record with Curtis Martin and LeGarrette Blount, who turned the trick twice. Blount scored three in the first half against the Colts on Jan. 11, 2014.
The Patriots’ five touchdowns and both Stephen Gostkowski field goals were scored with the line of scrimmage inside the Chargers 20. Tailback Rex Burkhead scored on a 6-yard scamper around left tackle and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett caught a 15-yard pass from Tom Brady.
“That’s (red zone) is an aspect of the game we focus on,” said Michel. “The red zone is very important to us and what we do when we get down there.
“I think we did a decent job with guys executing with pride and doing their jobs.”
Michel provided the ground threat that allowed Brady to complete 34-of-44 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown while compiling a passer rating of 106.5. Michel carried the ball 24 times for 129 yards with a long of 40 and touchdown runs of one, 14 and five yards.
The Patriots’ game plan was to execute long drives that had Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers pacing the sidelines. They scored touchdowns on five of their first six possessions on timeconsuming trips through the Chargers’ formidable front seven. The Patriots opening drive went 83 yards on 14 plays that consumed 7:11 and ended on dive by Michel.
“It’s all about concentration and the coach is going to call the best plays possible for us to succeed,” said Michel. “Guys are going to take pride in executing plays and everybody doing their job allows us to do our jobs and the guys did a great job doing it.
“The 40-yard run was all caused by all the great blocking I had with the offensive linemen and receivers doing their jobs. There were wide open holes that anyone could run through.”
Michel laid the foundation for his stellar playoff debut during the regular season. Michel rushed for 931 yards, the most by a rookie ball carrier on head coach Bill Belichick’s watch, on 209 carries for a 5.5 average with a long of 34 and six touchdowns. Michel had four games with over 100 yards and with a career best of 133 against the Jets on Nov. 25.
“We’ve talked about him all year (and) he’s done a good job,” said Belichick.
GOING FOR IT: Sony Michel dives into the end zone in the first quarter of the Pats’ rout yesterday in Foxboro.