Titans’ Derrick Henry Has Huge Role Vs. Patriots With DeMarco Murray Out

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Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry

Photo via Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports Images

One half of the Tennessee Titans’ running back duo will be unavailable for the third consecutive week Saturday night as the team visits the New England Patriots in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

The Titans on Wednesday officially ruled DeMarco Murray out for the game as he continues to recover from a knee injury. Second-year pro Derrick Henry will start for Tennessee.

After splitting carries with Murray throughout the regular season, Henry has been a workhorse with his running mate sidelined, carrying the ball 51 times over the Titans’ past two games.

The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner struggled on the ground in Week 17, gaining just 51 yards on 28 carries against the Jacksonville Jaguars’ top-ranked defense, but he had the best game of his career last Saturday in the wild-card round, rushing 23 times for 156 yards and a touchdown as the Titans upset the Kansas City Chiefs.

“Henry, you’ve got to be able to defend everywhere,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said Tuesday. “You know, he’s not just a guy (who), because he’s big, is going to put his head down and just run straight. If everybody crashes inside, he’ll bounce. He has the speed to get around the edge.”

Henry is one of the NFL’s most physically gifted running backs, possessing both imposing size (6-foot-3, 247 pounds) and top-level speed (4.54 seconds in the 40-yard dash). He ranked 14th in the league in rushing yards and 18th in yards per carry this season but second in both categories during the fourth quarter of games.

His two longest rushes against Kansas City — a 22-yarder and a 35-yard touchdown — both came in the fourth quarter, helping the Titans erase an 18-point third-quarter deficit en route to a 22-21 win at Arrowhead Stadium.

“I think that speaks volumes with him just wearing teams down,” McCourty said.

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