Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry has posterized many would-be tacklers in his six-year NFL career, and the Cincinnati Bengals are well aware of it.
Although Saturday’s AFC divisional round game is expected to be Henry’s first live-game action since Halloween, the Bengals aren’t overlooking the fact that Henry is still one of, if not the hardest runner in the league to bring down.
“You want to keep him contained as best you can, keep him in between the tackles,” Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson said. “…He's obviously got one of the best stiff arms, probably the best stiff arm in the league.”
Added running back Joe Mixon: "We all know what kind of back Derrick is. I think he's a very physical runner. He's got a crazy stiff arm, and everybody is aware of that.
"Over time throughout the game, nobody wants to keep tackling a bigger guy, especially in the cold. Sometimes guys get worn out making those hard tackles and sometimes they do make them. You're going to make this play and if you don't, you'll see the consequences that come from that and Derrick, he does a great job with making people pay for missing tackles."
His aforementioned stiff arm is to thank for much of his production, but Henry has never been one to go down easy.
Despite playing in just eight games, Henry still ranked sixth in the league in yards after contact (728), ninth in yards after contact per rush (3.32), 10th in runs of 15 yards or more (9), and he finished in the top 15 in missed tackles forced (33).
His 160 rush yards after contact in Week 2 against Seattle was the most of any running back in a single game this season.
"(Henry) just wears on you,” Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton said. “It might seem easy the first, second quarter, but towards the second half, just constantly tackling him, it definitely wears down on you. That's what (the Titans) thrive off of. Constantly running the football, trying to wear you down and just make it difficult for a defense to tackle them in the fourth quarter. We know as a defense we've got to get a lot of heads to the football and gang tackle."
While Henry likely won’t see the 27 carry per game workload he averaged before his injury, the Titans have the luxury of easing him back into the fold.
In the nine games Tennessee played without Henry, D’Onta Foreman (133 carries, 566 yards, 3 TDs) and Dontrell Hilliard (56 carries, 350 yards, 2 TDs) combined to help the Titans finish with the fifth-best rushing offense in the NFL.
In fact, the only running backs with more 100-yard rushing games than Foreman’s three since Nov. 28 are Jonathan Taylor and Rashad Penny, who both have four.
A fresh Henry, plus Foreman and Hilliard, who are in mid-season form, should give the Bengals and their No. 5-ranked run defense all they can handle.
“It was fun watching them while I missed playing with them,” Henry said. “They did a great job. Guys stepped in, guys who were hungry did a great job of running that ball. Overall as a team, they did a great job as well for us to have the No. 1 seed, get a bye week, and then getting into the divisional round.”
The Titans couldn’t have gotten Henry back at a better time. In addition to being rested and refreshed, Henry’s playoff resume is as good as it gets.
His three career playoff games of 150 rush yards or more are second-most all-time behind only Terrell Davis’ four, and he’s one of just three players ever with 200 or more yards from scrimmage in multiple playoff games.
In his seven-game postseason career, Henry has 670 rushing yards, 88 receiving yards and three touchdowns. His 111.7 rushing yards per game in the playoffs rank second all-time behind only Davis.
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