BOSTON (CBS) — Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel had a monster of a first half against the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC divisional round. Michel found the end zone three times in the first 30 minutes of the game, helping the Patriots jump out to a 35-7 lead at Gillette Stadium.
New England won 41-28 to advance to their eighth straight AFC Championship Game next weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Michel scored his first touchdown of the day on New England’s first possession, capping off a 14-play, 83-yard opening drive with a one-yard score to put the Patriots on top 7-0.
He found the end zone again on their second possession with a 14-yard run, giving the Patriots a 14-7 lead at the time.
Being the great teammate he is, the rook let two other Patriots find the end zone for New England’s third and fourth scores of the game. Receiver Phillip Dorsett hauled in a 15-yard touchdown from Tom Brady and Rex Burkhead ran one in from six yards as the Patriots scored on each of their first four possessions, taking a 28-7 lead in the process.
Michel completed his first-half hat trick after New England’s special teams came up with a Chargers fumbled punt. He capped off a four-play drive with a five-yard touchdown scamper to give the Patriots a commanding 35-7 lead before the half.
Michel finished the first half with 105 rushing yards on 16 carries, as the Patriots employed a run-heavy approach against the Chargers D. He ended the game with 124 yards off 24 carries, good for an average of 5.2 yards per carry.
That performance has Patriots receiver Julian Edelman pitching a new nickname for the rookie.
“The Blazin’ Haitian,” Edelman told reporters in the New England locker room. “He’s a beast.”
“He did have a great game. He’s just had a great year,” Tom Brady said of his rookie running back. “He’s just battled and fought hard and I really love Sony as a person and his commitment to the team. He’s just been a lot of fun to be out there with. He’s making a lot of hard yards and he had a great game today. Great to see.”
His three-touchdown game is just the fourth in Patriots postseason history, joining LeGarrette Blount (who did it twice) and Curtis Martin in the record books. The 31st overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Michel is just the second Patriots rookie in team history to rush for a touchdown in the playoffs. He joins fellow Georgia alum Robert Edwards, who ran for a touchdown as a rookie in New England’s 1998 Wild Card game loss to the Jaguars.
With Sunday’s win, the Patriots advanced to their eighth straight AFC Championship game, and will now take on the Chiefs in Kansas City next Sunday.