NASHVILLE – Derrick Henry told everyone what would happen.
The Tennessee Titans running back declared Thursday that he would be ready to go Sunday against the Houston Texans. And he was.
Despite a hamstring injury that caused him to sit out the entire week of practice, Henry rushed for 86 yards on 21 carries in the 24-21 defeat at Nissan Stadium.
It was not enough to extend his streaks of four straight 100-yard games and five straight contests with at least one rushing touchdown. It did, however, allow him to become the second Titans running back in the last decade to rush for more than 1,300 yards in a season.
With 1,329 rushing yards through 14 games, he trails only Chris Johnson (1,364 in 2010) for the most by a Tennessee running back since Johnson’s 2,000-yard season (2009).
“No, I wasn’t hurt,” Henry said. “I’m good. I played, I finished.”
A rundown of the Tennessee Titans’ top single-season rushing totals since 2009:
Despite Henry’s assurances, his status for the matchup between the AFC South’s top two teams was national news prior to kickoffs. The NFL’s television partners all reported on the fact that the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner was among the 46 active players on the gameday roster.
Because of the injury, which has been an increasing issue for three weeks, he was listed as “questionable” on Friday’s injury report. Trainers attended to him throughout the contest to ensure that the muscle remained warm and loose.
Whatever physical limitations he had his workload was not. Henry’s 21 carries were more than he had in all but four of the previous 13 contests and his workload did not necessarily diminish as the game progressed. He carried six times in the first quarter, six more in the second and seven in the third. He added just two more attempts in the fourth, when the offense was forced to pass more often in an attempt to rally.
He did have a 23-yard run in the second quarter (he has had at least one run of more than 20 yards in five straight games) but his average of 4.1 yards per carry was his lowest in seven games.
“He’s a hard guy to tackle once he gets going,” Houston coach Bill O’Brien said. “Once he gets into the teeth of the defense he’s rolling down the tracks, it’s not easy. So you have to try to do the best you can to stop him at the line of scrimmage. I thought our guys did a really good job of that.”
Henry actually lost ground in the chase for the NFL rushing title. With two games remaining, he is second to Cleveland’s Nick Chubb by 79 yards.
But he did not miss out on any playing time and insisted he was not missing any of his typical speed or explosiveness.
“Call the play, try to run it and got what I could,” he said of his approach against Houston. “… Give all the credit to them. We’ve got some stuff we need to do to help us get better next week.”
The Titans can only hope his hamstring is no worse for wear.