AFC South reporter
Derrick Henry had shrugged off his dominance over the Texans.
As Sunday began, the Titans running-back superstar had rushed for more than 200 yards in each of his last three encounters against AFC South opponents. But in his weekly press conference on Thursday, Henry declined to delve into the past.
“Had some good games [against them]but every year is different,” said Henry. “I can’t go out there and expect anything.”
But the rest of the NFL does — especially against the NFL’s worst-run defense. And he didn’t disappoint.
With quarterback Ryan Tannehill sidelined with an ankle injury and illness, Henry had 32 carries for a season-high 219 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Titans (5-2) to Sunday’s 17-10 win over the Texans (1-5 ) respectively. 1) at the NRG Stadium. It was a fifth straight win for Tennessee, who are now 3-0 in the AFC South game.
And for the fourth straight year, Henry had at least 200 rushing yards and two touchdowns against the Texans dating back to 2019.
His last three matchups against Houston:
- Week 17 of the 2020 season at Texans: 34 carries, 250 rushing yards (career high), two touchdowns
- Week 6 of the 2020 season vs. Texans: 22 carries, 212 rushing yards, two touchdowns
- Week 17 of the 2019 season at the Texans: 32 carries, 211 rushing yards, three touchdowns
According to NFL research, Henry now has six career games with at least 200 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns, the most in NFL history since at least 1950. The closest is three, a feat equaled by LaDainian Tomlinson, Barry Sanders and Jim Brown . His four such games against the Texans alone is an NFL record in the past 72 years.
This is franchise dominance taken to a whole new level.
“Without [the offensive line]I wouldn’t have the success I’ve had,” said Henry, who also broke Eddie Georgie’s franchise record for touchdowns on Sunday. “I told them, ‘I have [your] back ‘and they got my back. ”
Big holes opened up for Henry from the Titans’ first hold. On her second pull after the scrimmage, he had a 41-yard run.
Six of Henry’s 32 carries gained at least 10 yards, including three straight in the third quarter that set up place kicker Randy Bullock’s 29-yard field goal that put the Titans 17-3 by two points. But Henry wasn’t the only one feasting on the floor. His backup, Dontrell Hilliard, had eight carries for 83 rushing yards. As a team, the Titans had a staggering 314 rushing yards, a season high, at seven yards per carry. It was more than 88% of her offense that day.
Third-round rookie quarterback Malik Willis, who made his career debut with Tannehill’s absence, threw the ball just once in the second half. He attempted just 10 passes in the win, completing six of them for 55 yards with an interception.
“Most importantly, I don’t see it as a security blanket. I think it’s our offense,” Wilis said of running the ball. “If we let the ball go and they can’t stop it, what would you do?”
Just as the Titans’ offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, the defensive line wreaked havoc in the trenches on the other side of the ball.
The Titans had six quarterback hits, including three sacks, against Texan QB Davis Mills. He was under duress many more times. And the Titans obliterated star rookie running back Dameon Pierce for being a factor. The fourth-round pick, who had just 15 carries for 35 yards, was held at a season-low of 2.3 yards per carry.
Houston had 161 yards of offense in 51 games, largely distorted by a desperate 90-yard touchdown drive on his final possession in the closing minutes. The Texans were lifeless in the running and passing game. They converted two of 14 third downs and averaged just 3.2 yards per game.
“They came in to run the football,” said Titans coach Mike Vrabel. “We gave up a few that I felt we should have, but we took on the challenge of stopping the run and making them earn it.”
As far as Henry’s performance goes, that’s exactly what the Titans expect from the Superstar backlog. He expects more from himself than any of his teammates or coaches, Vrabel explained. He’s one of them: a bruise running back in the body of a 6ft 3, 247lb defensive end who wears down his opponents.
He competes against every team, but he dominates the Texans.
“The difference between this league and our team,” Vrabel told the Titans in the dressing room, “is that we have Derrick Henry.”
Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beatwriter for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) before moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.
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