INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Derrick Henry got right back to business against the Indianapolis Colts.
He took on some defenders by slamming his big body through the line of scrimmage, eluded others in the open field and even turned receptions into key first downs.
Yes, in the matchup of NFL rushing champs Sunday, it was the two-time winner who reigned supreme.
Henry rushed for a season-high 114 yards, scored one touchdown and watched the Tennessee Titans’ defense make three late stops to preserve a 24-17 victory.
“Derrick ran hard and I thought the coaches had a really good plan for how we were going to run the football,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “It wasn’t perfect, but that did look more like our running game.”
It was the healthiest the bruising Henry has looked since breaking a bone in his right foot in his previous trip to Indy, an injury that may have cost him a third consecutive rushing crown.
Clearly, Henry wasn’t the same in Tennessee’s playoff loss last season or in the first three games this season when he averaged 3.4 yards per carry.
Yet the Titans (2-2) followed the familiar script by leaning heavily on Henry early and he delivered with his fifth 100-yard game in the past six games of this series and rode it to a franchise-record four straight against Indy. The Titans are 11-2 against AFC South opponents since 2020.
And once again, all the Colts (1-2-1) could do was try to keep up. Three turnovers and the three missed scoring chances over the final 16 minutes were just too much to overcome. The Colts have one win in their past six games.
“We feel like we’re seeing some things we want to see,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “But in the end we need to play better, we need to execute better, we need to stop turning the ball over, we need to start getting turnovers, we need to run the football a little bit better and start faster.”
Finding a way to keep Henry in check might help, too. He needed less than two quarters to top 100 yards and stake the Titans to a 24-3 lead.
Ryan Tannehill took advantage of the first turnover, Matt Ryan's eighth fumble of the season, with a 7-yard TD pass to Robert Woods. Henry extended the margin by making Brandon Facyson miss in the backfield and sprinting 19 yards for the score. After the teams traded field goals, Tannehill hooked up with Chig Okonkwo on an 8-yard TD pass.
Ryan finally answered with a 14-yard TD pass to Mo Alie-Cox late in the first half and a scoring pass to Alie-Cox to cut the deficit to 24-17 midway through the third quarter.
Then the Titans defense stiffened — sacking Ryan to knock Indy out of field-goal range, recovering Jonathan Taylor's fumble on another third down near its 20-yard line and watching Chase McLaughlin's 51-yard field goal sail wide left with 1:58 to play.
“That’s what you have to do, find ways to win,” Vrabel said. "We came up with some huge stops defensively when, maybe, we were not at our best. They kept fighting and competing.”
Titans: Tannehill was 17 of 21 with 137 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked three times. ... Defensive lineman Denico Autry had two sacks and forced one fumble against his former team. ... Henry also caught three passes for 33 as Tennessee improved to 25-1 when he has at least 25 touches. ... Coach Mike Vrabel won his 45th game and passed Jack Pardee for third on the franchise’s career list.
Colts: Taylor had 20 carries for 42 yards before leaving the game. ... Ryan wound up 27 of 37 with 356 yards, two TD passes and one interception. ... Alie-Cox had six catches for 85 yards and had the first multi-TD game of his career. ... Receiver Alec Pierce had four receptions for 80 yards. ... Indy’s defense allowed 77.0 yards rushing in the first three weeks.
Titans: Linebacker Bud Dupree returned from a hip injury but reinjured the hip during the first half and rookie receiver Treylon Burks did not return after being carted to the locker room in the second half with a right foot injury.
Colts: Three-time All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard's season debut was brief. In the second quarter, Leonard collided with a teammate near the goal and was helped immediately from the field to the locker room where he was diagnosed with a concussion. Taylor, last year's rushing champ, left late with an injured ankle.
HE SAID IT
“I’m sure he’s upset," Titans safety Kevin Byard said, referring to Colts owner Jim Irsay. "We’ve been able to win the division the past couple years, so he understands the division is going to go through the Colts and the Titans. I’m sure he wanted to get the win, but we had to get this ‘W.’”
Titans: Head to Washington next Sunday.
Colts: Visit Denver on Thursday night.