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The Titans rode Derrick Henry all the way past the Patriots and into the Divisional Round

Derrick Henry is a bad man who the Patriots just couldn’t stop in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.

Wild Card Round - Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Derrick Henry is having himself a year. His return to form as a bruising and feared power back began weeks ago, but those who haven’t had a chance to see him in primetime got an eyeful on Saturday when the Titans faced the Patriots in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.

Henry has had plenty of big games in his career, but he didn’t put them together consistently until this season, when he rushed for 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns, both career highs. That’s why we picked him as the primary reason the Titans could go all the way this year.

The NFL’s leading rusher really hit his stride in the second half of the season, but he was excellent early and often against the Patriots. He was easily the most important player in Tennessee’s narrow 20-13 victory.

Let’s run through his big day — on his birthday of all days.

Henry was solely responsible for an entire scoring drive

Late in the second quarter, with the Patriots leading, 13-7, Henry put the team on his back in a way that few running backs can. The Titans marched downfield on a seven-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in them taking the lead — though it would be more accurate to say Henry marched down the field.

It began with a 29-yard rush that saw him run right between three Patriots players:

This is how the full drive shook out:

  • 1st-and-10 from TEN 25: Henry 29-yard rush
  • 1st-and-10 from NE 46: Tannehill incomplete pass
  • 2nd-and-10 from NE 46: Henry 11-yard rush
  • 1st-and-10 from NE 35: Henry 9-yard rush
  • 2nd-and-1 from NE 26: Henry 3-yard rush
  • 1st-and-10 from NE 23: Tannehill pass to Henry for 22 yards
  • 1st-and-goal from NE 1: Henry 1-yard TD rush

Here’s the play where he punched in the short touchdown run:

Or instead of watching all of the actual plays, the folks at Big Cat Country summed up the drive pretty well:

That touchdown gave the Titans a 14-13 lead going into the second half.

The Titans used him heavily early and down the stretch

Henry’s first half saw him pick up 57 yards after contact on 14 carries. He finished the half with 14 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown on the ground, plus 22 yards off of one reception. He was basically the entire Tennessee offense in the first half.

Midway through the fourth quarter, with a one-point lead the Titans tried to kill as much clock as possible. They continued to rely on Henry, giving him the ball five times on the drive, including one play in which he ran for 15 yards.

In fact, the worst play of that drive was a third-and-3 where Ryan Tannehill fumbled the ball, which Henry had to recover. That led to a Titans punt, but the Titans got the ball back. They quickly went back to Henry, who reached 167 yards on the drive, good for the Titans’ single-game franchise record in the postseason, and a total he would add to.

With eight seconds to go before the two-minute warning, Henry picked up a huge first down with an 11-yard rush:

A couple more Henry carries had the Titans punting to New England with 25 seconds left.

The punt was downed at the 1 yard-line, and Brady wound up throwing a pick-six almost immediately. Tennessee got the win — thanks in large part to Henry’s powerful running.

Henry called it a team win despite his Herculean efforts

Henry finished the game with 34 carries for 182 yards and a touchdown. He had the reception for 22 yards, so he finished with over 200 all-purpose yards. When asked by Tracy Wolfson about the win, Henry said his team just executed.

“We were just locked in,” Henry said. “We wanted it. That was our mantra. Just coming in here, doing what we need to do in all three phases. Stay locked in no matter what happens in the game and I feel like we did that.”

Then he was asked if this win was a good birthday present, and instead of focusing on himself, he credited his team.

“It’s a great win against a great team in a hostile environment,” he said. “Credit to my team. I’m just happy we were able to advance. Now we have to get ready for next week but, a great team win for us.”

The Titans are on to the Divisional Round, where they’ll face the top-seeded Ravens.