Derrick Henry dazzled in a remarkable display to lead the Tennessee Titans to a comfortable 30-9 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Henry had a career game on Thursday, highlighted by a record-tying touchdown to fuel the Titans against the Jaguars.
The 24-year-old is now the second player in NFL history to run for 99 yards and a score, matching Tony Dorsett's long rush from 1982.
After the Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts 6-0 on Sunday behind new starter Cody Kessler, Jacksonville looked as if they would carry that momentum into Tennessee when it opened Week 14.
While Kessler was not impressive in his debut, the inconsistency of Tennessee on both sides of the ball and the return of running back Leonard Fournette gave the once third-string quarterback a chance to give his team the late surge they needed. But, that just was not the case.
Henry led Tennessee's offense
Marcus Mariota has not been the most consistent quarterback. But with an even more inconsistent rushing attack, the Titans have had to rely mostly on the fourth-year play caller when he is healthy.
However, against the Jaguars, running back Henry helped power Tennessee to its seventh win.
The Titans had only two other games where they registered more rushing than passing yards — a week three meeting with the Jaguars without Mariota and a week six contest against the Baltimore Ravens. In this game, Henry carried the load and ran for 238 of the team's 264 yards on the ground.
His impressive Marshawn Lynch-esque run was not the only league record the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner set.
Henry now has three 70-plus yard rushing scores since 2017. It is the most in the NFL, as he moved in front of Fournette (2) who is the only other player with more than one in that time span.
He also tied Lorenzo White and Hall of Famer Earl Campbell for the most running touchdowns (4) in a single game in Titans/Oilers franchise history.
Henry is the first player with four scores in a game since New England Patriots running back Jonas Gray in Week 11 of the 2014 season, while he became the first player in the Super Bowl era that has rushed for 200-plus yards and four or more touchdowns on 20 or fewer carries. Henry did that on just 13 carries.
The Titans star also set a franchise record for the most rushing yards in a single game, beating Chris Johnson's previous mark (228) set in 2009, which was also against the Jaguars.
Jaguars didn't find the answer in Kessler
Maybe it was a fluke, but it seemed like the Jaguars might have found an answer to their offensive troubles when they benched Blake Bortles in favour or Kessler, who led Jacksonville to their first win almost two months.
It did not.
Kessler, who spent two seasons with the Cleveland Browns before being dealt to the Jaguars for a conditional 2019 seventh-round draft pick, had another low-output game. The down side to this week's performance was that he could not turn it into a win. In Indianapolis, Kessler was an efficient 18-of-24 passing for 150 yards. Again on the road at Nissan Stadium, he improved slightly but fell prey to a top-five pass rush in Tennessee.
Kessler finished the loss completing 25 of his 43 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown, but he was sacked four times and only managed to convert two of the team's 12 third-down tries.
Jacksonville moved to 4-9 with the loss and will have to put up better performances to get through the rest of their season. The Jaguars will face the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins in the coming weeks before closing out with the AFC South leading Houston Texans.
Titans have a tough road ahead
Tennessee moved above .500 (7-6) with this overwhelming victory, but entered the week as one of a number of teams that held 6-6 records.
The win certainly helps the Titans remain in the hunt for the final conference playoff spot, but three other teams — the Dolphins, Denver Broncos, and Colts — are also close behind the Ravens (7-5), who have control of that final spot. Tennessee will need to keep winning to earn that berth, but it will not be easy because out of those four teams in the mix, the Titans have the toughest remaining schedule.
Next, they will catch a break against the struggling 4-8 New York Giants. But, they will have to turn around and play the Redskins before closing out the regular-season against the Colts.
So, while the Titans will say they are focused on one game at a time, each game holds major playoff implications that have to linger in the back of their minds.
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