The Titans had the chance to make a statement on Monday Night Football with a victory over the Buffalo Bills. The Bills were coming in as arguably the cream of the crop of the AFC, and the Titans had still failed to receive their proper respect as the leaders of the AFC South. Not only did they get their respect, but they outright beat the Bills in a thrilling game with only three cornerbacks for the majority of the game. While the Titans struggled at certain points and it appeared that at halftime, Josh Allen and company may never be slowed down, the Titans clamped down and got the biggest win of their season against all of the odds. Still, there were plenty of factors that went into the victory, even when Ryan Tannehill had a visibly down game.
Offensively, the biggest two factors of the win were Derrick Henry and the offensive line. Henry himself is an absolute freak, however, the offensive line deserves its own props themselves, especially since they did not Taylor Lewan for a significant portion of this game. However, this is just one of the plays that showcase how dangerous Henry gets as the game goes on. The common verbiage of ‘running backs don’t matter’ simply does not apply to Henry. He is a complete aberration on the radar. A simple swing pass gains over ten yards because of how absurdly quickly a guy for his size picks up speed. That might be his most impressive trait. In addition, running into Henry for the thirtieth time in the fourth quarter, when this play occurred, may discourage most defenders. There is absolutely a psychological effect on Henry and his brand of football. This is not a special play, but it showcases some of the effects and the special build-up speed that Henry possesses.
The 76-yard touchdown run is just another one those ‘wow’ moments you seem to get with Henry every game he is. That is the type of player this guy actually is on that level. There is a very real impact that he has not just on the running game, but opening up things behind him for the passing game to take hold. Henry gets a series of really nice frontside blocks on this duo play. Between Swaim, Davis, and Quessenberry, Henry is able to make a jump cut, and simply accelerate through the hole without being touched. Not crediting the blocking on this play would be foolish. Henry obviously has unreal speed and acceleration for his size to make the rest of this run occur, but he is not even touched until he has the first down. So, while Henry certainly deserves tons of credit for this play breaking for the big play it broke for, the blocking was also superb. The movement the Titans get upfront is solid.
Ben Jones, Nate Davis, and David Quessenberry deserve so much credit on this play. For Jones, cutting off the linebacker at the second level was essential to any backside read that Henry could hsve on this play. Davis and Quessenberry completely clear out the end man on the line of scrimmagen and significant movement with the flow of the play. With no one able to scrape over the top of the play because of Jones’s block, Henry makes a jump cut that most should not be able to do for his size and gets a significant gain as a result. Also, just check out the finish of this run. That type of hit at the end of the runs takes a menal psyche toll on any defense trying to tackle this guy.
This time, the Titans hit the outside zone play to the frontside as it was designed. Instead of climbing to the second level on this, Jones does a great job of cutting off the nose tackle and turning him so he has no leverage to stack and shed this block to tackle Henry. That helps clear the way on the first level, although Rodger Saffold makes a great block here to clear the way through the second level. Again, this is one where Henry does not have to do anything special. The blocking for Tennessee was superb on Monday night, and they made their statement loud and clear.
These runs illustrate exactly what the Titans can do at the core of their offensive strategy. On one hand, Derrick Henry is who he is. Very rarely has there been a running back like Henry to smash every paradigm shift that we know of at the running back position over the last decade. It is not just his incredible physicality and durability, but Henry’s athleticism is truly freak nature for his size. He should not be as fast, agile, or explosive as he is at his size. On the other hand, the offensive line deserves just as much credit for powering Henry forward in the manner they did Monday night. Without some of these key blocks in the running game, Henry would not be nearly as dangerous as he actually is as it stands.
So, as always, make sure to give your flowers to Henry. He obviously deserves them and options up a completely new dimension for the Ttians offense as a whole. However, the offensive line also deserves its fair share of credit, even without their star left tackle for a good portion of the game. The performance of the guys in the trenches is just as important as Henry’s and when they both bring the heat, you get performances like the one on Monday.