FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots rookie operating again Sony Michel had earned a repute for shining on the largest stage on the College of Georgia. And within the greatest second of the Patriots season, he delivered a standout efficiency in a 41-28 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in an AFC divisional playoff sport.

Michel’s emergence couldn’t have come at a extra necessary time, and the Patriots will want it once more in subsequent Sunday’s AFC Championship Sport against the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium (6:40 p.m. ET, CBS).

Retaining the ball away from Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes can be essential, and Michel — who was supported by bone-crunching fullback James Develin, unsung blocking from tight finish Rob Gronkowski and an offensive line decided to impose its will — confirmed he could be relied upon to be a go-to man in a playoff sport.

Sony Michel turned the fourth participant previously 20 years to rush for no less than 125 yards and three dashing touchdowns in a playoff sport. Adam Glanzman/Getty Pictures

The 31st general decide within the draft, Michel completed with 129 yards on 24 carries and three touchdowns. He turned simply the third participant within the final 25 postseasons with three dashing touchdowns within the first half of a playoff sport, becoming a member of Ricky Watters (1993) and LeGarrette Blount (2013).

Michel additionally turned the one participant within the final 25 postseasons with 100 dashing yards and three dashing touchdowns within the first half of a playoff sport. In 2018, just one participant had 100 dashing yards and three touchdowns in a single half — Saints operating again Alvin Kamara, who was voted second-group All-Professional.

That’s spectacular firm to maintain.

Those that adopted Michel at Georgia won’t be stunned, as the common-or-garden, mushy-spoken 23-year-previous was the offensive star of the Bulldogs’ double-time beyond regulation win over Oklahoma within the Rose Bowl final yr. He had 11 carries for 181 yards with three touchdowns in that sport, together with 4 catches for 41 yards and a landing.

The Patriots’ willingness to keep on with Michel on Sunday was notable, contemplating his first two makes an attempt had been each stopped for a lack of 1 yard.

However that didn’t deter offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who confirmed his brilliance as a play-caller all through. As soon as the bottom sport obtained going — and operating again James White (15 catches for 97 yards) confirmed his worth as a cross-catcher against the Chargers’ zone protection — it opened up a productive play-motion passing sport as quarterback Tom Brady was seldom pressured regardless of the Chargers having a number of the NFL’s greatest cross rushers.

The same components will ease the burden on Brady subsequent Sunday in Kansas Metropolis, the place the Chiefs’ protection has been a a lot better unit, feeding off the frenzied crowd.

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For all of Brady’s brilliance over time, the Patriots have additionally proven the willingness to flip to the run.

The final three situations of a operating again totaling three dashing touchdowns and 125 yards in a playoff sport have all been for the Patriots — Michel on Sunday, and LeGarrette Blount twice. The one different time that occurred over the previous 20 seasons was when Ryan Grant completed the feat for the Inexperienced Bay Packers within the 2007 divisional spherical.

Michel’s presence allowed the Patriots to play Sunday’s sport on their phrases — attacking the Chargers’ smaller protection with greater offensive personnel and the operating sport — and in the end punch their ticket to what figures to be an entertaining AFC Championship Sport on the highway against the Chiefs.

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