Titans RB Derrick Henry looks to keep 100-yard streak alive against Colts

Whiteboard Wednesday Wk. 3 shows how the Titans can run the football (2:05)

Whiteboard Wednesday Wk. 3 shows how the Titans can run the football vs. the Colts when they stack the box. Video by Turron Davenport (2:05)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- There has been a familiar scene over the last three meetings between the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts.

The scene features a theatrical bully.

Take the classic movie "Friday" for example, which features a neighborhood bully by the name of Deebo that went around snatching people's chains and bikes.

In the case of the Titans (1-1), Derrick Henry plays the Deebo role.

How so?

A quick look at Henry's last three games against Indianapolis gives a good explanation. Henry has rushed for over 100 yards in each game for a total of 429 yards and four touchdowns. The Titans came out on top in two of them.

Offensive coordinator Todd Downing wants to continue the bully-like mindset now that he has taken over for Arthur Smith, who moved on to be the Atlanta Falcons coach.

"We're trying to establish an identity," Downing said. "We're not in the business of letting other people dictate what we do or don't do. We believe in effort and physicality around here."

The recent rushing performances are pretty significant because they're the only such totals allowed by a Colts defense since Frank Reich took over as coach in 2018 and named Matt Eberflus the defensive coordinator.

In that timeframe, the Colts have faced an elite list of running backs that includes Aaron Jones (Green Bay Packers), Dalvin Cook (Minnesota Vikings), Christian McCaffrey (Carolina Panthers), Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints), Saquon Barkley (New York Giants) and Ezekiel Elliott (Dallas Cowboys).

Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson was the last back not named Derrick Henry to gain over 100 yards against the Colts. Anderson rumbled his way to 158 yards on 30 carries in a 25-13 win over the Colts in Week 15 of the 2017 season.

"Derrick Henry is like a defensive end playing running back," Colts linebacker Darius Leonard said. "You have to prep yourself mentally and physically. You ask yourself, 'How am I going to tackle this guy? How am I going to bring him down?' You have to be smart when you do it. You know he has a nasty stiff arm, and he got speed."

The stingy Colts defense only allowed 90.5 rushing yards per game last season, second only to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (80.6). Indianapolis' defense revolves around Leonard, a three-time All-Pro linebacker, and DeForrest Buckner, who's a two-time All-Pro defensive lineman.

"They have length," Vrabel said of the Colts. "Obviously Buckner is a wild card with that length and athleticism. Their linebackers can run and are all very sound. Good tacklers. That's really what it comes down to as far as stopping the run."

"They play very hard," Henry added. "They fly to the ball and play great together collectively. I think they have good tacklers and they run their scheme very well."

Like many other tough defenses, Indianapolis (0-2) aims to shut the rushing game down early and force teams to pass the ball. Current Titans defensive lineman Denico Autry was one of the rugged defenders on the front four for the Colts that helped shape the defense last season.


There's obviously more that goes into it, but losing Autry to free agency appears to have had some negative repercussions for a Colts team that's allowing 120.5 rushing yards per game heading into Week 3.

Indianapolis will undoubtedly sell out to stop Henry from running the ball. Expect to see the Colts stack linebackers in the gaps and try to get penetration from the front four to keep Henry from gaining momentum towards the line of scrimmage.

The Arizona Cardinals executed that plan almost to perfection in the season opener which resulted in a frustrating 58-yard performance from Henry in a 38-13 loss.

The Seattle Seahawks seemed to have Henry bottled up to 35 yards on 13 carries in the first half as they hit him at or behind the line of scrimmage five times, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Henry responded by powering his way to 147 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the second half.

After the Seahawks took a 30-16 lead with 13:06 remaining in the fourth quarter, Henry had 13 rushes for 107 yards and two touchdowns, including 67 yards before contact. Henry was the catalyst for the comeback in the 33-30 overtime win.

The fact that Tennessee kept going to Henry despite being down by two scores in the fourth quarter is a testament to how patient the Titans are with the run.

"Situations in games dictate throwing the ball a little bit more," Downing said referring to sticking with the run. "We don't want to get too far away from (running the ball), regardless of what the situation is. We're going to give the O-Line chances to fire off the ball, and we're going to give Derrick opportunities to break tackles and see runs multiple times."

That's exactly what the Titans have done in the past and what they'll look to do against the Colts at Nissan Stadium on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). But they may have to do so without left tackle Taylor Lewan and left guard Rodger Saffold, both of which suffered injuries in Week 2.