HOUSTON – Derrick Henry felt it Sunday, running all over the Houston Texans like he has many times before. At one point, he turned to his rookie quarterback with a simple but poignant message.

“He said, ‘They can’t stop me. They can’t stop me,” said Malik Willis, who made his first NFL start for the injured Ryan Tannehill. “It was cool to see because they didn’t stop him.”

Henry dominated the Texans again, rushing for 219 yards and two touchdowns to beat the Tennessee Titans 17-10.

It was Henry’s fourth consecutive 200-yard game against the Texans, making him the first player in NFL history to have at least 150 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in four consecutive games against the same opponent. The 28-year-old has six 200-yard games in his career, tying Ojay Simpson and Adrian Peterson for the most games in NFL history.

“Credit to those guys up front in blocking — O-line, receivers, tight ends, fullbacks,” Henry said. “They sacrifice to be able to block and have the tools to be successful so I can play. I give them all the credit, so I can go and do my job. I’m happy to win.”

With Tannehill out, the AFC South-leading Titans (5-2) went to Henry early and often. He broke off a season-high 41 yards on his second carry of the game and never looked back against Houston’s worst defense in the NFL.

After opening the season 0-2, the Titans have won five straight behind Henry, who had his fourth straight game with at least 100 yards rushing.

Henry had a season-high 32 carries and a touchdown of 29 yards and 1 yard to help the Titans build a 14-3 lead.

“We’ve come to expect that from him,” Vrabel said. “He puts so much on himself. … Derrick expects more from himself than anyone on this football team or any coach. I’m glad we have him.”

The Titans went up by 14 when Davis Mills connected with rookie Damion Pierce for a 3-yard touchdown pass that cut the lead to 17-10 with less than 30 seconds left in the game. But Tennessee recovered the onside kick to seal it.

Henry’s big day gives him 75 career touchdowns (72 rushing and 3 receiving), passing Eddie George for most TDs in franchise history.

He joked that he was “exhausted” after taking on such a heavy workload, but stopped short of directly commenting on all the milestones he accomplished against the Texans, instead praising his offensive line.

“They did it,” he said. “I hope they’re proud of it.”

In the last four games against Houston, Henry has rushed for 892 yards and nine touchdowns. He missed both games against the Texans last year with a broken leg, making Sunday his first game against them since the 2020 season finale, when he rushed for 250 career yards and surpassed 2,000 on the year.

The last-place Texans (1-5-1) weren’t just awful on defense Sunday. They also couldn’t get anything going on offense and didn’t top 100 yards by the end of the fourth quarter. They finished with 161 yards and were 2 of 14 on third down.

Mills was 17 of 29 for 152 yards with an interception and a touchdown, struggling more than usual with top receiver Nico Collins out with an injury.

“It starts up front,” coach Lovie Smith said. “When you’re dominating up front on both sides of the football field, it’s hard to execute any game plan.”

Willis, who was drafted with the No. 86 overall pick, threw for 55 yards with an interception when Tannehill sat out for the first time since the seventh game of the 2019 season.

Henry put the Titans up 7-3 when he shed two defenders and stuffed another when he plunged into the end zone on a 29-yard run with four minutes left in the second quarter.

He extended the lead to 14-3 when he scored on fourth-and-goal from 1 midway through the third. Dontrell Hilliard had runs of 21 and 30 yards to set up that touchdown.

The Titans finished with 314 yards and Hilliard added 83.

“It’s unacceptable for us as a defense to give up that many yards,” linebacker Christian Kirksey said.

Robert Woods returned a punt in the first quarter and the Texans recovered. It was the third missed attempt by the Titans this season, but the first by Woods.

The Texans were unable to capitalize on that mistake.

INJURIES

Tannehill missed the game with a sprained ankle and illness. … Titans S Amani Hooker injured his shoulder in the first quarter and did not return. … Houston DB Grayland Arnold injured his quadriceps in the second half and did not return. … OL Justin McCray left in the fourth quarter to be evaluated for a concussion.

Thanks from HENRY

Pierce, from Houston, has been a big fan of Henry since meeting him at a camp when he was in high school.

“He’s amazing,” Pierce said. “He shouldn’t be that big to run the ball that fast.”

Henry found Pierce after the game and shared some encouraging words with the rookie.

“He said he liked my game, he liked the way I played, and that eventually it would become popular,” Pierce said.

FURTHER

Titans: Visit Kansas City next Sunday night.

Texans: Host undefeated Philadelphia Thursday night.

https://www.timesleader.com/sports/1582936/henry-runs-for-219-yards-2-tds-as-titans-down-texans-17-10

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