The New England Patriots opened up this season with a much more optimistic outlook that years past. The starting defense only lost one player from the season before, and the offense added #1 overall pick Patrick Cassidy to bolster their receiving corps. As always, the star of the show is Sony Michel who has carried the offense on his shoulders the last few years.
Expectations were not different for this season, as the offense planned to continue with their ground and pound style offense with Sony Michel leading the way. Expectations only rose even higher when the first snap of the game for the offense was a hand-off up the middle to Sony, who took it 69 yards untouched to the endzone. The next possession started off no different, with Sony adding another 4 carries and passing the 100 yards on the ground before the halfway mark of the first quarter. The Patriots added another TD on a 59 yard pass to breakout slot receiver Reed.
New England’s fans faced their worst fears on the next offensive possession, as Sony went down with an apparent hand injury. After cutting James White in the offseason, and letting Damien Harris go in free agency, next man up is Melvin McCollum, a 3rd year back who spent the last two seasons on the practice squad.
Eager to prove himself, McCollum channeled his inner Sony Michel, running the same play Sony housed his first run on, and took his first career carry 76 yards for a touchdown. That play did not prove to be a fluke, as he finished with 14 carries for 246 yards. Many Patriots fans will recall memories of the one hit wonder Jonas Gray, who had 200 yards rushing in one game, and then never was heard from again.
Will McCollum break away from this comparison? How will he fair running behind one of the best backs in the NFL in Michel? These questions remain unanswered for now, but we do know that McCollum was given his opportunity…and he ran with it.