How good was Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry’s game on Saturday night in the AFC playoffs?
With 182 rushing yards and 22 receiving yards, the former Alabama All-American accounted for 73.6 percent of the Titans’ yardage in their 20-13 victory over the New England Patriots. Only one player in postseason history has provided a greater portion of his team’s yards from scrimmage (gained rushing and receiving). Eric Dickerson accounted for 76.5 percent of the Los Angeles Rams’ scrimmage yards when he ran for an NFL postseason record 248 yards in a 20-0 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Jan. 4, 1986.
Henry’s 204 yards from scrimmage were the most given up by the Patriots to one player in their 41 playoff games under coach Bill Belichick.
In Tennessee’s previous playoff game, New England limited Henry to 28 yards on 12 rushing attempts and 21 yards on three receptions in a 35-14 victory on Jan. 13, 2017. That came after Henry had 156 rushing yards and 35 receiving yards in a 22-21 win over the Kansas City Chiefs the previous week.
Saturday night’s performance made Henry the first player in NFL postseason history with more than one 150-yard rushing game on the road, and his 444 yards from scrimmage rank second in the Super Bowl era for a player’s first three playoff games (behind running back Arian Foster’s 501 for the Houston Texans).
And Henry’s big game on Saturday night came against the defense that gave up the fewest points and the fewest yards in the NFL during the 2019 regular season.
“My approach is always the same against any defense,” Henry said after Saturday night’s game. “They’d been doing a great job all year, so I knew I just had to go out there and do my job at the best of my abilities to be efficient, but it was going to take all 11 of us. …
“I think we just wanted to put efficient drives together. Everybody just do their job. Beat the man in front of you, be physical, and I think that’s what we tried to do as we were moving the ball down the field. ”
Henry’s 34 carries set a career high.
“It’s a lot of confidence in his ability, his toughness, his durability,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “He cares a lot about this football team. I’m lucky to get to coach him and these players.”
Tennessee threw 16 passes against New England, the fewest for a team in a playoff victory in 10 years.
“That has to be the formula,” Vrabel said about the Titans’ reliance on the run. “When we look at things and we study it … to be able to run the football and to stop the run was huge. We’re appreciative of everything (Henry) does and the offensive line and the tight ends and fullbacks. It takes all 11 to run the football, but certainly Derrick’s a huge part of that.”
Even with Henry’s dominance, though, the game went down to the wire, with a interception returned for a touchdown with nine seconds left adding six points to the final margin.
“That’s the way we like it,” Henry said. “We don’t want nothing easy. We want it gritty. We want it dirty. That’s the mentality we’ve got to have. My main focus is finishing each and every drive.”
The Titans will play the Baltimore Ravens, at 7:15 p.m. CST Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs.
The Ravens are the No. 1 seed in the AFC field and had a first-round bye this weekend. The Titans are the No. 6 seed and got into the postseason by winning their regular-season finale.
“I don’t think nobody expected nothing from us,” Henry said. “Keep that underdog mentality and just stay hungry. Just keep believing in each other because all of us in that building, all of us together, we’re the ones that’ve got to make it happen no matter what anybody writes or what anybody says. We’re the ones that have to go out there and do it each and every day, each practice, each play and just keep believing in each other. Like I told them: Why not us? Why we can’t do it? That’s what we’re going to keep — that same mentality — and keep working.”