NASHVILLE – As far as sequels go, this one wasn’t too bad.
Derrick Henry did not deliver the same type of blockbuster performance Sunday as the last time the Jacksonville Jaguars visited Nissan Stadium. It was close enough, though, that those among the 60,926 in attendance who came to cheer on the home team left satisfied and happy.
The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries in the Tennessee Titans’ 42-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was the fourth-highest single-game total of his career and included a pair of touchdown runs 16 seconds apart in the third quarter, the first of which covered 74 yards and included a series of stiff arms along the way as he fought to stay in bounds.
The whole thing was in the same vein as his career-high 238-yard performance (on 17 carries) against the same opponent on the same field on Dec. 6, 2018. That one included a 99-yard touchdown run complete with a series of stiff arms and same fancy footwork along the sideline as well.
“It was similar,” Henry said, of his latest long touchdown run. “I was trying to keep them away. I kept trying stay in bounds and keep moving down the field, and it worked again.”
Two of his top four single-game rushing performances as a professional have now come against one opponent.
A rundown of Derrick Henry’s top NFL single-game rushing performances:
Dec. 6, 2018
Nov. 10, 2019
Dec. 16, 2018
Nov. 24, 2019
Oct. 16, 2017
The Jaguars limited Henry to 26 yards on nine carries in the first half. The bulk of those yards came on one carry (11 yards) early in the second quarter. At that point, quarterback Ryan Tannehill was the Titans’ leading rusher with 40 yards on three carries.
Henry’s biggest contribution through the first two quarters was as a decoy. Tennessee took advantage of the defense’s aggressive pursuit of the running back with play-action passes and misdirection plays that created openings, such as the one Tannehill exploited for a 20-yard run on the offense’s first play.
He took center stage with 4:30 into the second half when he took a handoff and broke into the clear down the left sideline. From there, his combination of size (he is 6-foot-3, 247 pounds) and speed was too much for the members of the Jaguars defense who tried in vain to get him to the ground.
“After handing it off, everyone’s high-fiving me on the sideline,” Tannehill said. “All I did was hand it off. It’s fun. … (He) has shown time and time again the whole year that he’s tough to bring down. He’s going to run through arm tackles. If you give him a crease, he’s going to gain yards. He also the speed to finish and the strength to finish down the field.
“It’s a rare combination to find in a running back.”
The next time he touched the ball he only went seven yards. But that was all that was required to score another touchdown after the Titans forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. The two scores were 16 seconds apart. He also had runs of 13, 12 and eight yards in the third quarter, during which he ultimately gained 126 yards on eight carries.
With 347 yards in his last two games (he had 188 and two touchdowns against Kansas City), Henry needs just nine more to get to 1,000 for the season. His yards-per-carry average has climbed to 4.8, just shy of his career-best set in 2018, when he was at his best in December.
“You see it all the time,” linebacker Rashaan Evans, a college teammate of Henry’s at Alabama, said. “It’s kind of numbing. But at the same time, you’re like, you’ve got to enjoy something like that because a guy that big and a guy that fast, being able to do it consistently each and every game like that, it is remarkable.”