Henry’s Still the King

After Tennessee Titans’ running back Derrick Henry was limited to 58 yards rushing against the Arizona Cardinals, vindication coursed through the veins of all the math nerds who never miss a chance to diminish a running back’s worth in today’s NFL. The one running back who defied their fancy equations finally regressed to the mean by turning in a performance indistinguishable from any other running back in the league.

A week later, the Titans were down 24-9 to the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the first half, and Derrick Henry once again looked average.

Early in the 4th quarter, Russell Wilson hit Freddie Swain for a 68-yard touchdown pass to expand the lead to 30-16.

“The king is dead!” the math nerds shouted.

And then this happened.

How can someone that big run that fast? Watching Derrick Henry blaze through the secondary reminded me of a long-ago summer night at a local drag strip where I saw a semi-truck with a jet engine mounted on the back rocket its way down the track. I had the same thought:  How did something that big move that fast?

Seattle’s counterpart to Henry was Chris Carson, another running back who doesn’t shy away from contact. The most endearing thing about Carson is that he runs angry and treats every carry as if it’s his last. He makes plays. He’s probably the perfect “plug ‘n play” running back for today’s NFL, a 7th round draft pick’s salary history. But remember that run we just watched with Henry racing down the sideline? Chris Carson turns that run into a nice, 35-yard gain.

Russell Wilson was supposed to lead the Seahawks to victory in overtime. He was playing in his home stadium, where the Seahawks under the guidance of the Pete Carroll / Russell Wilson tandem usually don’t lose. And, he had all the inherited advantages quarterbacks get these days (e.g., rules changes, etc.). Yet, here’s how the last drives for both teams played out.

  • Seahawks lost 12 yards on 3 plays.
  • Titans gained 21 yards with 5 plays.
    1. (7:19) D.Henry left end to SEA 27 for 12 yards (B.Wagner).1st & 10 at SEA 39
    2. (6:42) D.Henry right guard to SEA 23 for 4 yards (D.Reed).1st & 10 at SEA 27
    3. (6:08) D.Henry right end to SEA 22 for 1 yard (B.Wagner).2nd & 6 at SEA 23
    4. (5:27) (Shotgun) D.Henry left end to SEA 18 for 4 yards (B.Wagner; T.Flowers).3rd & 5 at SEA 22

The opportunity to win the game arrived and instead of Ryan Tannehill throwing the ball to get the team in field goal range, the Titans relied on Derrick Henry and the Titans’ offensive line to sledgehammer their way there.

One important detail the math nerds or anyone in love with equations should learn to accept about football is that it isn’t all about numbers. Players make “business decisions” all the time regarding which collisions matter. Not all running backs create the same “business decisions”. Any system of measurement would show that Derrick Henry excels here.

By the way, Derrick Henry had 41 touches for 237 yards and 3 touchdowns. Pretty good numbers, eh? No, the king is not dead. He is very much alive.

Long live King Henry!

Categories: NFL

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