Derrick Henry’s Relentless 182-Yard Performance Saved the Titans From An Embarrassing Start to the Season

The Tennessee Titans know what their football identity is. Still, it got away from them in their embarrassing season-opening blowout loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Derrick Henry took matters into his own hands in Tennessee’s Week 2 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

King Henry’s herculean effort saved the team from an unfavorable 0-2 start to the 2021 NFL season.

The Cardinals stifled Derrick Henry and the Titans offense in Week 1

The Arizona Cardinals dominated the Tennessee Titans to open up the 2021 season. Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury’s offense had a field day all over Mike Vrabel and Shane Bowen’s defense. They put up 38 points in an absolute drubbing from start to finish.

The Titans offense couldn’t get into a rhythm and appeared out of sync throughout. For the past few seasons, the running game has been the team’s bread and butter.

Derrick Henry, who won the NFL’s past two rushing titles, couldn’t get anything going against Arizona’s defensive front. He finished with just 58 yards and 17 rushing attempts.

The Titans trailed by 18 points at the half, so the game script didn’t exactly allow for a ground-and-pound run game approach.

The offense’s overall performance was stunning, especially considering Tennessee entered 2021 as one of the AFC’s top contenders. They added Julio Jones in the offseason to pair with A.J. Brown. Ryan Tannehill isn’t an elite quarterback, but he thrives in the play-action.

However, the Titans’ inability to establish the run set the stage for the rest of the team’s performance.

Henry put on his cape and carried the Titans to an upset win over Seattle

Titans running back Derrick Henry in action against the Seahawks
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry runs for a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks | Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans have a clear identity on offense. They run the ball down your throat with Derrick Henry, and then they continue to feed him until your team eventually wears down.

The Cardinals snatched the identity from Mike Vrabel’s squad to open the season, which had to leave a bitter taste in the mouths of everyone in the Titans locker room.

The Titans traveled to the West Coast to battle the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2. The offense got off to yet another slow start and trailed the Seahawks 24-9 at halftime.

After mustering up three field goals in the first half, Tennessee kicked things into high gear in the second half. They scored three touchdowns, while their defense limited Russell Wilson and Seattle to just one touchdown between the second half and overtime.

The Titans finally found their identity, and it shifted the entire momentum of the game. Much to coach Vrabel’s pleasure, offensive coordinator Todd Downing gave the ball to Derrick Henry.

The two-time Pro Bowler finished the game with 182 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries. He also played a decent role in the passing game, but the former Alabama star is at his best when running through and over defenders.

Henry can run his way into the MVP conversation in 2021

Derrick Henry’s value to the Tennessee Titans cannot be overstated. The team that got blasted by the Cardinals in the season opener is not the same team that stunned the Seahawks in overtime in Week 2.

After a slow start, the 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year took the game over. Historically, when the Titans need a big play, they tell Ryan Tannehill to turn around and hand the ball to King Henry. Most of the time, it pays off.

Henry consistently receives an enormous workload, and he prepares his body in the offseason so he can withstand the rigors of an entire NFL season. The 35 carries against the season doubled the number of attempts he had in the Week 1 loss.

Tennessee’s recipe for success is clear. If the offensive line has a bad day like it did against Arizona, it will be a long day for the Titans. Even with Jones and Brown, this offense is not built to allow Tannehill to drop back and sling the football.

Henry’s bruising running style beats opposing defenses into submission, which opens up the play-action. That’s precisely what happened against the Seahawks. The defense had no answers for the 6-foot-3, 247-pounder in the second half.

“All day long, we fought not to let that happen,” said Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, per The Athletic.

Given his ability to put up monster stat lines, it’s not far-fetched to argue that Henry will complete the three-peat and win back-to-back-to-back NFL rushing titles.

“It never ceases to amaze me,” Mike Vrabel said of King Derrick Henry.

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference and Next Gen Stats

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