HOUSTON (AP)Derrick Henry was feeling it Sunday, running all over the Houston Texans like he has so many times before. At one point he turned to his rookie quarterback with a simple but pointed message.
”He was like: `They can’t stop me. They can’t stop me,”’ said Malik Willis, who was making his first NFL start for the injured Ryan Tannehill. ”It was cool to see that because they weren’t stopping him.”
Henry dominated the Texans again, running for 219 yards and two touchdowns to carry the Tennessee Titans to a 17-10 win.
It was Henry’s fourth straight 200-yard game against the Texans, making him the first player in NFL history to have at least 150 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in four consecutive games against the same opponent. The 28-year-old has six 200-yard games in his career, tying O.J. Simpson and Adrian Peterson for the most in NFL history.
”Credit to those guys up front on blocking – O-line, receivers, tight ends, fullbacks,” Henry said. ”They are sacrificing to be able to block and have the tools to have success, so I can make a play. I give all the credit to them, so I can go out there and do my job. I’m happy to get the win.”
With Tannehill out, the AFC South-leading Titans (5-2) went to Henry early and often. He ripped off a season-long 41-yard run on his second carry of the game and never looked back against Houston’s NFL-worst run defense.
After opening the season 0-2, the Titans have won five straight behind Henry, who had his fourth straight game with at least 100 yards rushing.
Henry had a season-high 32 carries and touchdown runs of 29 yards and 1 yard to help the Titans build a 14-3 lead.
”We’ve come to expect that from him,” Vrabel said. ”He puts so much on himself. … Derrick expects more from himself than anyone on this football team or any coaching member would. I’m glad we have him.”
The Titans were up by 14 when Davis Mills connected with rookie Dameon Pierce on a 3-yard touchdown pass that cut the lead to 17-10 with less than 30 seconds left in the game. But Tennessee recovered the onside kick to seal it.
Henry’s big day gives him 75 career touchdowns (72 rushing and three receiving), passing Eddie George for most TDs in franchise history.
He joked he was ”winded” after shouldering such a heavy load but wouldn’t comment directly on all the milestones he reached against the Texans, instead praising his offensive line.
”They were the ones that made that happen,” he said. ”I would hope they take pride in that.”
Henry has run for 892 yards and nine touchdowns combined in his last four games against Houston. He missed both games against the Texans last year with a broken foot, making Sunday his first game against them since the finale of the 2020 season, when he ran for a career-best 250 yards to surpass 2,000 for the year.
The last-place Texans (1-5-1) weren’t just terrible on defense Sunday. They also couldn’t get anything going on offense and didn’t crack 100 yards until late in the fourth quarter. They finished with 161 yards and were 2 of 14 on third down.
Mills was 17 of 29 for 152 yards with an interception and a touchdown, struggling more than usual with top receiver Nico Collins out with an injury.
”It starts up front,” coach Lovie Smith said. ”When you get dominated up front on both sides of the football, it’s hard to get any game plan going.”
Willis, who was the 86th pick in the draft, threw for 55 yards with an interception as Tannehill sat out for the first time since the seventh game of the 2019 season.
Henry put the Titans up 7-3 when he shed two defenders and stiff-armed another as he tumbled into the end zone on a 29-yard run with about four minutes left in the second quarter.
He pushed the lead to 14-3 when waltzed in on fourth-and-goal from the 1 midway through the third. Dontrell Hilliard had runs of 21 and 30 yards to set up that touchdown.
The Titans finished with 314 yards rushing as Hilliard added 83.
”It’s unacceptable for us as a defense to give up that many yards,” linebacker Christian Kirksey said.
Robert Woods fumbled a punt return in the first quarter, and the Texans recovered. It was the third fumble on a punt return for the Titans this season but the first by Woods.
The Texans couldn’t cash in on that mistake.
Tannehill missed the game with a sprained ankle and an illness. … Titans S Amani Hooker injured his shoulder in the first quarter and didn’t return. … Houston DB Grayland Arnold injured a quadriceps in the second half and didn’t return. … OL Justin McCray left in the fourth quarter to be evaluated for a concussion.
KUDOS FROM HENRY
Houston’s Pierce has been a big fan of Henry’s since meeting him at a camp when he was in high school.
”He’s amazing,” Pierce said. ”He’s not supposed to be that big running the ball that fast.”
Henry found Pierce after the game and shared some encouraging words with the the rookie.
”He said he liked my game, liked the way I play and that it’s going to pop eventually,” Pierce said.
Titans: Visit Kansas City next Sunday night.
Texans: Host undefeated Philadelphia on Thursday night.
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