Kenyan Drake ran for 114 yards on 25 carries during the Miami Dolphins’ 27-20 win over the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football to close out the Week 14 NFL schedule. A week earlier, the second-year running back out of Alabama ran for 120 yards on 23 carries with a touchdown as the Dolphins beat the Denver Broncos 35-9. The Dolphins’ two wins come after a five-game losing streak, while Drake’s explosion comes after weeks of splitting carries with Damien Williams, who has been sidelined with a shoulder injury recently.
Suddenly the question becomes, have the Dolphins found a “feature back” in Drake? Is he the replacement for Jay Ajayi, whom the team traded to the Philadelphia Eagles back after Week 8?
“Even when we don’t quite block it right, he makes it work,” Miami head coach Adam Gase replied after the game when asked about Drake. “He has good vision. With speed like that, he just gets a little bit of green grass and seems to go a pretty good distance.”
“I think he’s flourished in this with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield,” quarterback Jay Cutler added. “Tonight we saw him split out and just running past linebackers. He breaks tackles in the hole, he cuts back well, he sees it well. He’s becoming one of those complete backs that you’re able to do a lot with.”
How did Drake see his big performance on a primetime stage?
“I try to go out there no matter the situation, no matter the stage and just try to do my best to help this team win games,” Drake said after the game. “I feel like I sound like a broken record but that’s just my mentality. I enjoy going out there and performing on these stages obviously, but it was a great team win; offense, defense, special teams, all facets of the game. Shout-out to everybody that came out there and supported us. We definitely got the job done today.”
After another performance in which he topped 20 carries, recording 30 total touches when including his five receptions for 79 yards, Drake again said his body can take the pounding of being a number one running back. “I feel great,” he explained. “Body always feels great after a win, especially a win against a top-notch opponent such as the Patriots. I feel great.”
Drake was then asked about his confidence after two 100-yard performances in a row. He replied, “I feel like I try to go out there with a level of arrogance that I feel like I can go out there and help this team win in any way possible. My confidence has stayed pretty stagnant because regardless if I fumble or whatever the case may be, I’m going to go out there and prove that I can be a top notch player. I’m just happy we got this win.”
Wide receiver Jarvis Landry mentioned Drake after the game without being asked about the running back. Looking at the team’s first touchdown drive of the game, coming late in the second quarter, Landry mentioned the 3rd-and-7 play with Cutler finding Drake for eight yards, leading to a Landry touchdown on the next play, “Drake, can’t say enough about the things he did on the ground and for us in the air. He extended that third down in the red zone that turned into points so you know it’s huge.“
Earlier on that touchdown drive, Drake caught a 47-yard pass from Cutler down the sideline, taking advantage of lining the running back out wide like a receiver and having a mismatch with a linebacker covering him. Drake also recorded a 31 yards carry to in the third quarter which set up the Dolphins with 1st-and-Goal at the Patriots’ four-yard line. Two plays later, Landry caught his second touchdown pass of the game, giving Miami a 27-10 lead and basically putting the game out of reach for a New England comeback attempt.
On Monday, Gase added to his thoughts on Drake and the workload he is currently receiving, saying, “That’s why we drafted him. That combination of him and Damien really caused a lot of problems because both of those guys have can do everything you want them to do. We’ve just got to keep working on cleaning up the ball security and make sure that he hangs onto that thing and keep putting two hands on it in traffic.”
He continued, stating, “Just to see his engagement in meetings and practice and how much you can see the effort he’s putting forth to try to make sure he does everything right. He wants to be a reliable guy. Just seeing that growth really fast, it’s been fun to experience.”
Drake is growing fast, right into being the starting feature back for the Dolphins. And his arrogance will keep him in that position.