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Derrick Henry stands alone after upset win vs. Ravens

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The Tennessee Titans scored another playoff upset the only way they know how: By riding Derrick Henry to victory.

This time, though, it came with an opportunity for an on-field retort.

During his weekly media availability, Ravens safety Earl Thomas chalked up Henry’s wild-card performance to New England defenders appearing unwilling to attempt to tackle the hulking running back, adding he thought the Ravens‘ “mindset is a little different.” It was seen as a slight attempt to discredit Henry’s achievement as the NFL’s rushing champion and contributor to a stunning road postseason victory.

They met Saturday, and it didn’t go well for Thomas, who also met Henry’s stiff arm and found himself turned around as if he were lead blocking for Henry, who cruised out of bounds for a 27-yard gain.

The King is hitting his stride. @KingHenry_2 #Titans #NFLPlayoffs

��: #TENvsBAL on CBS


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January 12, 2020

“I just said, ‘Good to see you, Earl,'” Henry said of the moment after he turned Thomas around with his left hand. “That’s what I said. I said, ‘Good to see you, man. Hopefully we can do this again.'”

It was the latest example of how difficult it is for anyone — even some of the league’s hardest hitters — to take down Henry. A bit of humble pie, one might call it.

“I think that’s a part of the game,” Henry said of Thomas’ comments during the week. “Some guys like to say stuff to get them fired up, their defense fired up and I think that’s what he was doing and I just go play.”

And go play, he did. Henry ripped off another similar looking run later, giving the business to Thomas’ teammate Marcus Peters in Henry’s latest dominant performance that saw him finish with 195 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown pass — yes, a pass.

Credit for that call is due to offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, but nonetheless, what we’re watching Henry do in these playoffs is special. Henry became the first runner to rush for 175-plus yards in two games in the same postseason, and the first to do so in consecutive playoff games. No one has completed a two-game run loaded with long runs like Henry has in this last week.

Tennessee does it not with just big plays, but a clear commitment to the run with a back built to carry the load — and a few defenders along the way.

“We know that it’s not always gonna be five and six and seven yards, it’s gonna be grind, grind, grind and we’re gonna bust one,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said afterward. “I think that they have that kind of confidence to be able to pick and prod where we’re going.

“I think [offensive line coach] Keith Carter and [offensive coordinator] Arthur [Smith] do a great job of kind of figuring out what we want to do based on the looks that we’re getting and to be able to hit some of those runs and guys are finishing blocks. When Derrick gets to the backside and is able to get to the second level, most of the time he’s able to gain a lot of yards.”

Henry’s outing was deserving of postgame recognition from Vrabel, and a high-level troll job on the part of one of Henry’s teammates. After the win in Baltimore, Titans receiver Tajae Sharpe took the podium and reprised the role of Ravens running back Mark Ingram, mimicking his Week 11 introduction for Lamar Jackson by replacing key details with those about Henry, the NFL’s rushing champion.

As the Titans reveled in their latest unexpected triumph, Henry received a chance to emphasize what could be seen as the Titans‘ mission statement (just don’t call it a statement). It’s not about being an underdog or proving anyone wrong. It’s about proving themselves right and continuing to make progress toward the ultimate goal.

“We won. I feel like we won. I don’t get into all that ‘statements’ and all that,” Henry said. “I just try to make sure we all stay leveled, put our head down and just work. Like I told ’em in there, like I said at the end of camp, ‘Why not us?’ and we gon’ keep that same mentality.”

Consider the surprise ruined. These Titans aren’t catching anyone off guard, especially when they’re led by a king.

He has been crowned. #Titans pic.twitter.com/DR2weiIrDU

— Erik Bacharach (@ErikBacharach)
January 12, 2020

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