NASHVILLE, TN - 2022.09.25 - Titans vs Raiders

Derrick Henry

Although it wasn’t quite as profound as Aaron Rodger’s infamous “R-e-l-a-x” declaration in 2014, it seems Titans running back Derrick Henry knew what he was talking about when he told those worried about Tennessee’s 0-2 start that the sky wasn’t falling.

The Titans (1-2) got back on track Sunday, as did Henry, who ran for 85 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries in Tennessee’s 24-22 win over the Las Vegas Raiders (0-3) at Nissan Stadium.

“He was running hard,” Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “I think that's the Derrick that we've all come to know and love, ... the guy who's breaking tackles, running through tackles, getting those tough yards. So, good to see Derrick back.”

Henry simply assessed his effort.

“I was trying to take advantage of plays and and get what I [could] and keep moving drives for us so we could score points in the end zone,” he added.

The Titans had nearly as many rushing first downs on Sunday (six) as they had in their first two games combined (seven). 

Henry, who had notched just one run of 10 or more yards entering Sunday’s game, racked up four such runs against the Raiders while adding five receptions — one shy of his career high — for 58 yards, the third-most receiving yards he totaled in a single game in his career. Sixty-five of his 85 rushing yards come after contact.

With his 143 yards on Sunday and for the organization, Henry passed Earl Campbell for the third-most games of 100 or more yards from scrimmage (31). He trails only Eddie George (54) and Chris Johnson (46).

The Titans also improved to 20-1 when Henry has 25 or more touches.

“Derrick was able to secure it, turn and pick up some nice yardage,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “When we were able to check it down to him, I thought he ran hard and ... with purpose. …Those are huge plays and Derrick just catches it and gets going forward, falls forward, and takes care of the football. Then, you're looking at nine yards.”

Added Tannehill: “We called a couple screens, obviously, which gets him the ball. The other ones, I think they were just soft. They were dropping out of there, kind of taking away some of the downfield throws for us. But when they do that, it opens up those underneath checkdowns. And I think Dontrell (Hilliard) had a big one on third down and Derrick had a few of them. So, if you have guys who can catch the ball and do something with it when they catch it underneath, it’s huge.”

Henry’s success on the ground also opened up the passing game. 

The Raiders stacked the box (eight plus defenders) 45 percent of the time — tied for the third-most in Week 3 — which allowed Tannehill to use play action to set up chunk plays, including Robert Woods’ 41-yard reception and Treylon Burks’ 13-yard catch on back-to-back plays during Tennessee’s second drive of the game. Those plays set up Henry’s 1-yard rushing touchdown.

“…[It] wears down the [defensive] front [when] you stay efficient offensively and in short-yardage situations," Tannehill said of Henry’s ability to create matchup problems. "So, it's huge whenever [Henry’s] running that hard. We talk about finishing on a daily basis, and the pile going downfield [is what we like to see]. When you see that happening, you start to build that momentum and a lot of confidence is gained offensively.”

While the Titans struggled to get their offense firing on all cylinders in Weeks 1 and 2, Sunday’s win — at least the first half — may have provided a solid blueprint going forward.

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_