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South Florida’s Sony Michel makes statement in NFL playoff debut with the Patriots

New England Patriots running back Sony Michel (26) runs away from Los Angeles Chargers free safety Derwin James (33) during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass.
New England Patriots running back Sony Michel (26) runs away from Los Angeles Chargers free safety Derwin James (33) during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. AP

South Florida’s own Sony Michel made a statement in his NFL Playoffs debut with the New England Patriots on Sunday.

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American Heritage running back Sony Michel scores in the second quarter as American Heritage takes on Green Cove Springs Clay in the Class 5A FHSAA state football championship in Orlando on Friday, December 13, 2013. AL DIAZ MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The former Plantation American Heritage standout ran for 129 yards and three first-half touchdowns on 24 carries to lead the Patriots to a 41-28 win over the Los Angeles Chargers and advance to the AFC Championship Game for an eighth consecutive season. New England will face the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday for a spot in Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta.

Michel, who the Patriots drafted with the 31st overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Georgia, is just the third rookie in NFL history to run for three touchdowns in a single playoff game, joining the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Leonard Fournette (Jan. 14, 2018, vs Pittsburgh Steelers) and the San Francisco 49ers’ William Floyd (Jan. 7, 1995, vs. Chicago Bears). He is also just the third player ever in Patriots history to score at least three rushing touchdowns in a playoff game. The others: LeGarrette Blount (three TDs on Jan. 18, 2015, and four TDs on Jan. 11, 2014, both against the Colts) and Curtis Martin (Jan. 5, 1997, vs. the Steelers).

It’s just the latest accomplishment in Michel’s rookie season. The 5-11, 215-pound running back finished the regular season 15th in the NFL with 931 rushing yards despite missing three games with a knee injury. His 71.6 rushing yards per game ranked second among all rookies, behind only the New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley (81.7).

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Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.

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