Derrick Henry enjoyed the night of his life, setting a new Tennessee Titans (7-6) franchise record with 238 rushing yards and four touchdowns in a 30-9 throttling of the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9) to kick off Week 14. Here’s what we learned on Thursday Night Football:
1. Henry joined Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett (Jan. 3, 1983) as the only players in NFL history with 99-yard touchdown runs. His second of four scoring trips was a Beast Quake masterpiece that included ruthless stiff arms to A.J. Bouye, Leon Jacobs and Myles Jack, allowing him to tight-rope the sideline en route to pay dirt. Exploiting a defense that wanted nothing to do with a 247-pound bruiser in a lost cause, Henry sealed the victory with touchdown jaunts of 16 and 54 yards in the third quarter. With the home faithful chanting his name for a chance to add a franchise-record fifth touchdown, Henry was finally stuffed by a conveniently chesty Jacksonville defense deep in the heart of garbage time.
Just how impressive was Henry’s performance? Prior to Week 14, he was on pace to rush for 632 yards and seven touchdowns at a paltry 3.7 yards per carry. With three games left to play, his season stat line now reads 712 yards and nine TDs at a far more sightly 4.9 yards per clip.
2. Each team had a chance to wrest control during a dramatic sequence that began with Ronnie Harrison‘s red-zone interception of Marcus Mariota late in the first quarter and ended with Henry’s manhandling rampage in the middle of the second quarter. Sandwiched in between, Titans rookie Cameron Batson botched a punt return that resulted in a safety and a subsequent Jacksonville drive that was stonewalled by linebacker Rashaan Evans at the goal line. While the Jaguars were presented with a plum opportunity to take a brief two-point lead due to those momentum-shifting errors by Mariota and Batson, they were comprehensively dismantled in the other three and a half quarters of the contest.
3. Five days after smothering the high-flying Colts in an impressive shutout, the allegedly reinvigorated Jaguars defense lost its discipline and sense of purpose. Taking to the road on short rest late in a lost season, Jacksonville’s backbone simply wasn’t there in one of the poorest displays of tackling we’ve witnessed this year. Henry’s 238 rushing yards now stand as the most ever by a player with 17 or fewer carries. Whatever energy this group derived from last week’s quarterback change dissipated when Leonard Fournette was stuffed at the goal line at the end of a 14-play drive.
4. While the effort can be questioned on defense, Jacksonville’s offense was simply outmanned with a backup quarterback and a patchwork offensive line. Cody Kessler has managed just one touchdown in eight quarters since replacing Blake Bortles as the starter. He struggled with Tennessee’s third-down blitzes and doesn’t possess the arm to pass his team back into a lopsided affair. In a stark sign of offensive futility, Fournette was running behind Ereck Flowers and Patrick Omameh on the left side of the line for multiple surges at the Titans‘ goal line. If those names sound familiar, it’s because they comprised the right side of the Giants‘ beleaguered blocking unit until they were unceremoniously dumped by the G-Men at midseason.
5. On the heels of a second straight victory, the Titans can move into a tie for the AFC’s No. 6 playoff seed should the Ravens (7-5) fall to the Chiefs (10-2) in Kansas City this Sunday. Tennessee’s remaining schedule is a major advantage, with a trip to the Giants (4-8) before returning home to face the reeling Redskins (6-6) and the division-rival Colts (6-6). That season finale could end up representing a rare win-or-go-home situation if outcomes break right for the two AFC South wild-card hopefuls.