NASHVILLE – Derrick Henry did not run all over the Kansas City Chiefs the way he has most other opponents this season.
For the first time in six games and just the second time overall, the two-time NFL rushing champion failed to run for at least 100 yards. Similarly, his streaks of three straight games with at least one touchdown run and two with three touchdown runs ended.
However, the Tennessee Titans running back did throw over the defense in his team’s 27-3 victory at Nissan Stadium on Sunday. Henry capped the game’s opening drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end MyCole Pruitt that gave future opponents something else to consider when they formulate their plan for the NFL’s premier ball carrier.
“It was definitely cool,” Henry said. “Definitely happy that we were able to execute it and get in the end zone. (Pruitt) made a good catch.
“I was happy I was able to get it over the top so he could catch it.”
It happened just over four minutes after the opening kickoff. The Titans used mostly a no-huddle offense on seven plays that got them from their own 25 to the Kansas City 5, where it was first-and-goal. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill went in motion to the left, and the snap went directly to Henry who took a couple of steps toward the line of scrimmage before he jumped and threw to Cole as four Chiefs defenders tried to recover.
“It was just a great call on them,” Kansas City linebacker Nick Bolton said. “We kind of knew they did Wildcat throughout the week. They just had a great play.”
It was the second touchdown pass of Henry’s career and the first in a regular season game. he connected with Corey Davis for three yards and a touchdown against Baltimore in the divisional round of the 2019 playoffs, a week before the Titans and Chiefs met for a spot in Super Bowl LIV. In 2018, he threw it three times and completed two for 14 yards.
The Titans are now 5-0 in games that he has attempted a pass.
The importance of this one, though, was that it was Tennessee’s first touchdown on an opening drive this season. In the first six games, the offense managed one field goal and five punts the first time it got the ball.
Under coach Mike Vrabel, the Titans were 15-5 when they scored on their first possession. They are now 16-5.
“We knew coming out that high-powered offense on the other side, we wanted to get going early and score points early,” Tannehill said. “We were able to do that and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Henry carried four times for 17 yards before he threw the pass. After that, it largely was business as usual as another 25 handoffs came his way. In this case, though, all those attempts led to just 86 yards, an average of 2.96 yards per carry, the first time since Oct. 13, 2019 at Denver that he did not average at least 3.0 per rush.
To balance things out, the Titans’ only rushing touchdown came from Tannehill, who scored on a 4-yard run late in the second quarter that made it 24-0.
“We definitely wanted to come out and have a strong drive [at the start], finish in the end zone,” Henry said. “I was glad we definitely did that. It got momentum going and we were able to put drives together into the end zone.
“… That’s always a great feeling, you know, getting in drives, finishing drives, things going the way you want to as an offense. Everybody is being able to make plays. That is all you want as an offense, is everybody getting opportunities and taking advantage of them.”
Especially when they are not the usual opportunities.