An Audio Blogminute for Titan Up(s) & Downs
The Titans had to dig out of a 14-0 hole early in the game after quarterback Carson Wentz methodically walked the Colts 82 yards down the field for a score on the first series of the game, only to get the ball back into his hands a few plays later when Ryan Tannehill was intercepted. On a first and goal Wentz found WR Michael Pittman again for back to back scores.
Although the Colts kept Darrick Henry bottled up, Tannehill rebounded, moving the chains with the help of TE Jeff Swaim, ultimately targeting him in the end zone. Swaim delivered with a catch for a touchdown. From there it was game on with the Titans and Colts trading blows and scores.
Wide receiver A.J. Brown had another big game with 10 receptions, one going for 56 yards and a touchdown. He finished the game with 155 passing yards. Undrafted free agent WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine continues to have a solid season, coming up with big catches when the Titans need them most. Tannehill found him too in the end zone with a perfectly timed 5 yard slant pass for a touchdown.
Derrick Henry rushed for just 68 yards, but moved the chains on some critical third downs with bruising short distance running, this despite an injury. He limped to the sideline briefly, returning with a taped foot. He finished the game but his toughness may cost him the season. Henry is awaiting the results of an MRI for a suspected Jones fracture.
On the defensive side, the Titans were opportunistic and resilient, overcoming some costly mistakes. Once again, the linebacking crew led by Harold Landry and Bud Dupree, played strong, pressuring Wentz and assisting the D-line who held Colts RB Jonathan Taylor to 16 carries of 70 yards.
Defensive back Elijah Molden intercepted Wentz inside the 5 yard line, scoring a touchdown. And safety Kevin Byard saved the game in OT with an interception, redeeming himself after a costly passing interference penalty set the Colts up for a score. Byard intercepted Wentz at the 46 yard line returning the ball to the 32, setting Randy Bullock up for a kick. Bullock delivered on a 46 yarder, right down the middle of the uprights, putting the Titans up 34-31 ending the game.
Listen To Game Day Recap: Titans Victorious Over Colts And Worried About Henry
An Audio Blogminute For Titan Up(s) & Downs
The Titans put together the game that coaches, fans and pundits alike were waiting to see against the the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday at Nissan Stadium, with a decisive 27-3 victory . The offense attacked early and often, building a lead that began in the first series of the game. Ryan Tannehill captained the Titans down to the 5 yard line, throwing the ball to multiple receivers and handing it off to Derrick Henry as needed.
At the 5, Henry took a direct snap and threw Mycole Pruitt open with a nifty pass to the back of the end zone. Pruitt made a difficult catch while keeping both feet inbounds.
The opening series set the tone for the offense, which utilized execution and physicality in equal measure. They held onto the ball and ate up the clock, managing a potentially devastating setback when backup Left Tackle Kendall Lamm, who was in for pro bowler Taylor Lewan, was lost in the second quarter to an ankle injury. The Titans subbed in Bobby Hart, who is primarily a right tackle, signed off the Bills practice squad Wednesday. Playing left tackle on a last minute notice, Hart barely batted an eye. Tannehill was sacked just once. He threw for 270 yards and scored a rushing touchdown. Henry ran for 86 yards and A.J. Brown had a big game, racking up 133 receiving yards and a touchdown.
On defense, the Titans aggressively swarmed to ball, making Patrick Mahomes miserable. Mahomes was sacked 4 times and linebacker Rashann Evans intercepted him once. The chiefs were so discombobulated that TE Travis Kelce resorted to a tattling session with the referee, complaining that safety Dane Cruickshank was getting away with multiple pass interferences. The Titans defensive line and linebacking crew held strong, limiting Mahomes, RB Darrel Williams and utility back, wide reciever Tyreek Hill to a combined 73 yards of rushing. Both safety Kevin Byard and corner back Elijah Molden had strong games against the lauded Chiefs receiving corps.
Though the return game was lackluster, the Titans special teams unit was solid, with the return of Brett Kern who was back to his stellar form. Kicker Randy Bullock maintained his consistency, going 2/2, kicking field goals of 34 and 51 yards.
Listen To Game Day Recap: Titans Win BIG Against the Slipping Chiefs
This week the talk has been, first and foremost , about Derrick Henry–and rightfully so. Then there’s been a lot of talk about A.J. Brown and his strong outing against the Bills–and his bout with, according to him, Chipotle induced food poisoning.
Heading into Sunday’s game against the Chiefs, everybody’s talking about how to slow down Patrick Mahomes and how to minimize WR Tyreek Hill and T E Travis Kelce. There’s also been a lot of buzz about injuries, about overcoming a short week and maintaining intensity after an emotional big win.
And every Titans fan, pundit and ne’er-do-well alike, is wondering/opining, will Julio Jones play? And if he does, will he finish the game with out another annoying, game steeling injury?
For all that–and all that’s important, very important–nobody’s really talking about Kendall Lamm, the backup tackle that will be playing LT against the Chiefs in place of the oft injured Taylor Lewan. Lamm, a 2015 undrafted free agent from Appalachian State, will face off against one of the highest paid defensive players in the league, DE Frank Clark.
The 6’5″ 310 lb. Lamm has a total of 27 starts in 80 games with the Texans and the Browns. He signed a two year deal with the Titans worth 6.8 million dollars in March of this year. Lamm’s most productive year was 2018 where he logged 13 starts for the 11-5 Houston Texans. This season he has played a total 45 snaps, allowing 1 sack and 2 false start penalties.
Conversely, Clark signed a huge five year 104 million dollar contract, 44 million of it guaranteed, with the Chiefs in 2019. The enormous contract was inspired by his 2018 season with the Seattle Seahawks where he recorded 41 combined tackles, 13 sacks, two pass deflections, one interception, and three forced fumbles through 16 starts.
Though Clark made the pro bowl in 2019 and 2020, he has not lived up to the expectations that his contract affords. This season he has been plagued by legal troubles steaming from two illegal possession of a firearm charges this summer and he’s been frequently sidelined due to a hamstring injury. So far Clark has 5 tackles, zero sacks and no forced fumbles. On the other hand, back up DE Mike Danna has recorded 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 15 tackles in his stead.
If you believe, as I do, in the old adage that “all NFL games are won in the trenches,” the battle between Kendall Lamm and Frank Clark/Mike Danna will be the victors bellwether.
An Audio Blogminute for Titan Up(s) & Downs
The Titans held the fort in a thrilling victory at Nissan Stadium Monday night. After Derrick Henry scored his third touchdown of the evening with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter, putting the Titans up 34-31, Josh Allen methodically worked his talented receivers over the middle down to the 12 yard line. There, on third and six, he scrambled toward the sideline, going airborne as he tried to hit the first down mark. He was short by less than a yard.
Rather than kicking a short field goal for overtime, Sean McDermott elected to go for the win. Allen kept the ball on a sneak and defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons stuffed him. The Titans took over with 12 seconds left. Ryan Tannehill took a knee and the team took the victory.
It was a hard earned and costly victory for the Titans, who lost 1st round defensive back Caleb Farley and return man Camron Batson for the season to torn ACL injuries. In addition, Julio Jones tweaked his hamstring again, Taylor Lewan was carted off the field with a concussion and CB Chris Jackson and RB Jeremy McNichols suffered injuries, foot and ankle respectively.
Derrick Henry had another monster game rushing for 143 yards including a 76 yard touchdown where he was clocked running at almost 22 mph–the fastest running time in the NFL so far this season.
Ryan Tannehill played smartly and efficiently, completing 18 out of 29 passes for 216 yards with one interception and one rushing touchdown. The offensive line held up against a top ranked Bills defensive giving up no sacks and receiver and A.J. Brown rebounded from a hamstring injury and food poisoning, racking up 7 catches for 91 yards.
The Titans defense executed Mike Vrable’s edict for better situational football coming up with big plays when the team needed them most. They forced the much vaunted Bills offensive to settle for field goals three times, and sacked Josh Allen three times. Moreover, they kept Allen corralled, limiting him to 26 yards of rushing.
Listen to Game Day Recap:Titans Beat Bills in Bruiser
Of Derrick Henry it could be said that he talks softly, runs swiftly and carries a big stiff arm. Consider this: half of his 2,027 rushing yards last season came after contact, breaking an astounding 34 tackles in the process.
That’s why he’s the king. But the 2015 Heisman winner and second round draft pick’s (46th overall) ascension to the throne wasn’t as smooth as his deceptive ability to accelerate through the line of scrimmage and nimbly bounce to the outside.
Although Henry broke not only Alabama’s rushing record but Hershel Walker’s single-season SEC rushing record, racking up over 2,000 yards and beating out quarterback phenom Deshaun Watson for the Heisman in the process, as a 2016 NFL rookie he ran behind a declining DeMarco Murray because then head coach Mike Mularkey favored Murray’s pass catching capability. The following season Henry split the carries with Murray and was instrumental in the Titans 22-21 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in a wild card playoff game, where he rushed for 156 yards with one touchdown and 35 receiving yards.
Though Mularkey was fired and replaced by former New England Patriots all-pro linebacker and Houston Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, 2018 began as more of the same for Henry. Vrabel hired Matt LaFleur, considered a burgeoning offensive mind wunderkind as his OC. Then the Titans picked up free agent RB Dion Lewis, an all purpose yards specialist who’s skill set fit the backfield passing schemes that LaFleur favored. Once again, Henry was more of an afterthought, utilized as a “big back” battering ram and little else.
That all changed in week 14 against divisional opponent the Jaguars on a 99 yard run, which began deep in the end zone and ended with Henry scoring a touchdown and becoming a star. Early in the second quarter, Henry broke through contact at the one, bounced out toward the left sideline where he was met at the 15 yard line by cornerback, A.J. Bouye. There he stiff armed Bouye, accelerating through him to midfield where he was perused by linebacker Leon Jacobs. Once again, Henry employed the stiff arm , this time bringing his pursuer to the ground, while tiptoeing along the sideline. If it had ended there, it would have been a great, yes, even memorable run, but it didn’t. With the astounding agility and precision of a tightrope walker, Henry managed to stay inbounds, outgaining multiple pursuers as he delivered a final stiff arm to linebacker Myles Jack before bounding, still upright, into end zone.
Unfortunately the 9-7 2018 Titans didn’t make the playoffs. Moreover, there were concerns that Marcus Mariota was digressing with a season passing record of 11 touchdowns, 8 interceptions leading an offense that was ranked near the bottom of the league. It was obvious the 2019 Titans would be more dependent on the run game. And with long time assistant coach Arthur Smith as the offensive coordinator, there was little question that Henry would start.
When Henry entered the NFL in 2016, the reign of the bell cow running back was in decline–then as it is now. The reason for this is multi-dimensional.
First off, the NFL is a fan dependent business, relying on televised viewership, merchandising and ticket sales. And the fans love offense in general–and a pass, pass, pass orientated offense in particular; at least that’s what the analysts tell us. In addition, the shelf life of a running back–elite or not–is exceedingly short, averaging a mere 2 years of prime production.
Accordingly quarterback pay has risen exponentially, while the running back’s pay has stymied. For instance, when Marcus Mariota signed his rookie four year contract with the Titans in 2015, it was worth 24.2 million. One year later, Henry signed his rookie four year deal worth 5.4 million.
On paper the combination of a fleet of foot Mariota/Henry backfield was intriguing, but Mariota’s baffling indecision eroded his already slipping confidence–he couldn’t read the pass rush and by the time he used his wheels it was too late. With no play action passing game, defenses stacked the line of scrimmage without fear of recrimination. Predictably the running game faltered. In a week 6 loss to the Denver Broncos, Henry ran for all of 28 yards. With the Titans staring down a 2-4 record, Mariota was benched in the 3rd quarter for Ryan Tannehill.
After eking out wins in three of the next four games–the last of which, Henry ran for 188 yards and two touchdowns against the Kansas City Chiefs–the offense began to gel with Tannehill at the helm. And with the weight of the offense more efficiently distributed, Henry went on a tear, rushing 622 yards in the final four games of the season, which cemented his win of 2019’s rushing title.
But Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans were just getting started. The team made the playoffs as the #6 seed and defeated the heavily favored New England Patriots 20-13 in an AFC wildcard game where Henry rushed for 188 yards.
Next the Titans faced the Baltimore Ravens–again heavily favored. Henry ripped the Ravens defense in a jaw dropping performance, rushing for 195 yards and throwing a 3 yard touchdown pass in a resounding 28-12 divisional playoff victory.
Though Kansas City bested the Titans in the AFC championship game, holding Henry to 63 yards, the running back’s stock had skyrocketed. On March 16 of 2020, the Titans put the franchise tag on Henry.
One day later Ryan Tannehill signed a 4 year extension contract worth 118 million dollars. Henry signed his franchise tag two weeks later and in July he signed a new 4 year contract for a total of 50 million, with a 12 million signing bonus and 25.5 million guaranteed. Tannehill’s contract provided a 62 million guarantee, twelve million dollars more than Henry’s total contract.
If the financial discrepancy between running back to quarterback matters to Derrick Henry, you can’t tell it by the way he runs…then again, maybe you can.
In the 2020 season Henry was named Offensive Player of the Year after being named Offensive Player of the Month once and Offensive Player of the Week twice. Along the way he racked up three 200 yard games, one of them against the Texans in week 17 where he rushed for an astonishing 250 yards and two touchdowns, putting him over the 2,000 yard mark for the season. He is the only player in football history to rush for 2,000 yards in high school, college and the NFL.
So far this season Henry is on track for more of the same. Entering week 6 he’s amassed 640 yards and 7 touchdowns. And in week two against the Seahawks, he had a monster game running for 182 yards, 55 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns, for which he was named Offensive Player of the Week.
But amidst the praise and the accolades, the talk has begun, louder than whispers, more like a drumbeat: how much longer can his body take the wear and tear? How many more yards does he have in him? How long will they ride him before he is injured?
Henry is a determined, yet humble warrior committed to the game, “as long as I am able to play.” His off season workouts are strictly regimented, going high intensity on Monday, rest and recuperation on Tuesday, low intensity on Wednesday, more rest and recuperation on Thursday and moderate intensity on Friday.
He runs with weights, doing his intricate foot work drills uphill…literally, he runs up hills. He does hundreds of curls with 40 lb dumbbells and hundreds of pushups. He hurls 35 lb medicine balls and pounds heavy weighted ropes. He does hundreds of squats. And then more squats.
He submits his body to a subzero temperature chamber, (cryotherapy) to multiple needles penetrating tension bands in his muscular structure, (dry needling) and IV nutrient therapy. He consumes a high protein, low carb 3,500 calorie a day diet (mashed potatoes allowed). He goes to bed early and gets up that way.
There are no whispers, rumors, no sordid details about his private life. He shares a stable, private home with long-term girlfriend and entrepreneur, Adrianna Rivas, their one-year-old daughter Valentina and dogs Nala and Nino. He rarely goes out, preferring to stay at home where he indulges in movies.
And he prays. A lot.
When Derrick Henry’s head hits the pillow he sleeps well. His life is both hard and privleged, simple and complex. It is a good life. A life that is fit for a king.
An Audio Blogminute for Titan Up(s) & Downs