Mike Vrabel, the head coach of the Tennessee Titans, couldn’t ignore the obvious a week ago. “Monday Night Football” saw yet another magnificent performance by the 247-pound freight train that is Derrick Henry, who destroyed the Buffalo Bills. After the game, coach Rex Ryan conceded that his team had placed too much trust in their leading rusher.
According to Vrabel, “we continue to hop on Derrick’s back and he’s more than willing and able to carry us.”
However, we have seen how far one guy can carry this Titans team: all the way to the conference championship game.
The Tennessee Titans (5-2) added seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones to their roster in June, but they stuck to their tried-and-true recipe for the first few weeks of the regular season. Jones and A.J. Brown have not been healthy, the defence has been hammered, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill is not ranked among the top 10 quarterbacks in the country. The N.F.L.’s season running record was within 100 yards of being broken by Henry through six games in the 2019 season, and he was on track to break it again.
There was one exception to the 2,000-yard club, of course, and that was the Broncos’ Terrell Davis, who had a 38-year-old John Elway as his quarterback during Denver’s Super Bowl run in 1998 to balance out the team’s success.
Tannehill shown again again that he is not a one-dimensional fill-in, completing 21 of 27 passes for 270 yards and a 105.3 passer rating in the win over the Chiefs on Sunday.
This is also the finest receiving group Tannehill has had in his time in Tennessee. Brown and Jones, who have been hampered by hamstring problems to start the season, are beginning to take advantage of one-on-one coverage on the perimeter. Brown boxed out Kansas City CB Mike Hughes on his 24-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter of Sunday’s game and torqued his body around at the last second. Brown ended with eight receptions on nine targets for a total of 133 yards, making the drops that plagued him throughout September seem like a long-ago memory.
Jones isn’t close to 100 percent, but he demonstrated against Buffalo with a circus catch that he is also not close to being done. In all, Tannehill completed passes to nine different Kansas City players throughout the game against the Chiefs (3-4).
The Titans will be able to follow some easy arithmetic with the help of these receivers. In order to contain the 2,000-yard rushing back, opponents may fill the box; but, Tannehill has the ability to make them pay via the air, transforming games into breezy, backyard pitch-and-catch contests.
A manifestation of the Henry Effect was also seen in the red zone during the second quarter. When Henry was sacked on second-and-goal from the one-yard line on third down, Tannehill glided in for an easy touchdown run off a fake pitch to Henry, which he celebrated with an Air Jordan finger roll.
Although they have made significant strides since then, the Titans have made one significant acquisition in the form of edge rusher Bud Dupree, who was signed to a five-year, $82.5 million contract by the team this off-season. The cost of finding a guy that can single-handedly harry Mahomes and turn the flow of a game is high, but it is necessary.