ATLANTA — Long after his teammates had triumphantly exited the confetti-laden field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the rookie remained, content to just linger a little longer and reflect on his team’s 13-3 Super Bowl victory over the Rams.
“I just wanted to soak it all in,’’ said Sony Michel, who was able to enjoy the celebratory scene with his parents. “It’s been a journey, and at the end of the day, the guys in that locker room stuck together. We knew it was going to be a long journey, a roller-coaster ride.’’
Not to be forgotten among the herculean effort by the Patriots’ defense, Julian Edelman’s MVP performance and Tom Brady’s annual postseason reaffirmation of his greatness was the performance turned in by Michel, the 23-year-old running back out of the University of Georgia who scored the game’s lone touchdown — a 2-yard burst at 7:03 of the fourth quarter that broke a 3-3 stalemate and put the Patriots ahead to stay.
And the score, his sixth of the playoffs, landed him in the record books for most postseason touchdowns by a rookie (fellow Georgia alum Terrell Davis scored five in 1995).
“He’s had an awesome season, not just the postseason,’’ lauded backfield mate James White. “He battled injuries beginning of the year, missed a game or two, just kept fighting, just put his head down and worked. He’s an awesome player, awesome teammate.’’
Michel finished the day with 18 carries for 94 yards, including a key 26-yard jaunt with 3:38 left that helped set-up Stephen Gostkowski’s game-clinching 41-yard field goal.
“We talk about four-minute situations where you’re ahead with the lead [and] you have to make yards and we ran the ball,’’ lauded Brady. “The way Sony busted that one . . .’’
“It’s not really about me, it’s about this team,’’ said Michel, who rushed for 931 yards and six TDs in 13 games this season. “These boys, they take pride. They took me under their wing and I just appreciate them.
“Our goal was to play some physical football, offensive line did a tremendous job today, they did a tremendous job all year. James Develin, fullback, selfless guy, receivers doing their job, everybody just doing their job and able to execute.’’
And down the stretch, nobody executed better than the team’s first-round pick.
“Words can’t really explain,’’ Michel said. ”But it feels good to win a Super Bowl. I love playing for this organization. Pats nation, thank you.’’
Scott Thurston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.