Never has Derrick Henry done so much for so little.
The two-time NFL rushing champion carried 33 times for 157 yards in the Tennessee Titans’ 27-24 loss to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. The number of attempts matched the third-highest total of his career and it was his 11th-best game, in terms of the yards.
Until now, those kinds of numbers always added up to a victory. Coming into the game the Titans were 15-0 when Henry ran the ball 24 times or more, and they were 17-0 when he rushed for 113 yards or more. Both of those records have now been blemished.
Plus, this was just the second time he rushed for at least 125 yards but the Titans failed to score at least 30 points. The other was a 17-0 victory over the New York Giants in 2018.
“Back to the drawing board,” Henry said. “Watch film. Practice better. Leaders lead. Hold each other accountable and just grow from it.”
With wide receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones sidelined by hamstring injuries, it figured that the Titans would lean on Henry as much as, or more than ever. For most of the day, there was every reason to think that he was doing enough.
Henry carried 12 times for 50 yards in the first half, an unspectacular but effective two quarters that presumably softened up the Jets defense for what was to come. It looked as if he finally dropped the hammer when he carried four times for 50 yards in a span of five plays to start the fourth quarter, the last of which was a 1-yard touchdown run that gave Tennessee a 17-10 lead.
After that, however, he gained just 34 yards on 11 carries, and Tennessee failed to put away the previously winless Jets. In overtime, Henry ran it three times for 11 yards, and two of them were for fourth-down conversions that preserved his team’s chance to win or at least tie. The outcome remained in doubt until Randy Bullock’s 49-yard field goal attempt missed to the left with 19 seconds left in the extra period.
“With a team that runs the ball a lot, especially to build up the play-action, with the amount of touches that he gets you can’t get discouraged off his numbers that you see,” Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley, who had a game-high 13 tackles, said. “When I wasn’t tackling him, I saw our guys going downhill trying to hit him … just showing no fear.”
Henry now has the league’s top two single-game rushing performances of the season (his 182 yards in an overtime victory at Seattle in Week 2 is tops) and three of the top five. He is the league leader – by massive margins – in rushing yards with 510 (148 more than second-place Nick Chubb) and in carries with 113 (30 more than second-place Joe Mixon).
“I could say that I didn’t get the feeling that we were out of the game at any point in the game,” wide receiver Josh Reynolds said. “… All we had to do was do our thing on offense.”
The things Henry did always have been enough. Until now.