For a franchise record fourth straight game and despite going against one of the NFL’s best scoring defenses, the New England Patriots offense was able to break the 38-point barrier. There was a lot to like about the team’s offensive performance during its 38-31 win over the Chicago Bears – from Josh Gordon’s 100-yard output to the offensive line slowing down a ferocious pass rush. However, one play puts a damper on the entire victory.
Coming out of the timeout between quarters one and two, the Patriots called a run with workhorse back Sony Michel as the ball carrier. The play ended at the line of scrimmage and with the first-round draft pick losing the football. The Bears recovered the fumble and ultimately turned it into a touchdown nine plays later. The turnover, however, was secondary at that point: Michel remained on the ground due to an apparent injury.
As the Patriots later announced, the 23-year old hurt his knee while going to the ground. And while an MRI later today will give more clarity on the severity of the injury by the sheer looks of it, it could be a serious one. Considering that Michel is New England’s number one running back and a productive presence in the backfield, losing the rookie for an extended period of time would be a huge blow to the team.
“It’s tough to see a guy like that go down,” fellow running back James White said in his press conference immediately after the game. The veteran, who finished the day with 97 yards from scrimmage and a pair of touchdowns, played a big role in helping the team adjust after Michel was lost yesterday. He also knows that Michel had fought his way back after another knee injury limited him for most of the Patriots’ training camp.
“He’s been battling some injuries and been working hard and playing well,” White added. Michel indeed played very well recently and especially over the three games leading up to yesterday’s contest in Chicago lived up to his first-round label: serving as New England’s early down bell-cow and goal line back, the 31st selection of this year’s draft registered 67 carries for a combined 316 yards and four touchdowns.
Equally important as the stats is his presence as a threat from the backfield – which, in turn, helps open things up elsewhere. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick explained the impact of an improved running game last week: “When the running game is effective, that helps the play-action passes a lot.” Without Michel in the lineup, this aspect of New England’s offensive attack would likely also suffer as a consequence.
“We all hope he’s okay,” added quarterback Tom Brady – one of the primary beneficiaries of an improved running game. “He’s doing a great job for us.” Whether Michel gets a chance to continue this job in 2018 remains to be seen. Whatever today’s MRI will ultimately reveal, though, it seems like a foregone conclusion that the rookie will at least miss some time – practice or in-game – due to the injury suffered against the Bears.
“Just hope for a speedy recovery for him,” said James White. As things stand right now, this is the best Michel’s teammates can do.