NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Derrick Henry ran.
The Tennessee Titans running back didn’t stop here. He ran and ran, then ran some more.
He didn’t stop until he had rushed for 238 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries, setting a franchise record for single-game rushing yards for the 59-year-old Titans – whose history dates to the Houston Oilers of the American Football League.
The total was enough to make the Jaguars’ post-game locker room at Nissan Stadium a humbled, embarrassed place.
“He could have run for 300 tonight, to be honest with you,” safety Tashaun Gipson said after the Jaguars’ 30-9 loss to the Titans in front of 60,344 at Nissan Stadium Thursday.
Henry entered the game with 474 yards rushing this season. His yardage total on Thursday marked the most yards by a single player in a single game ever against the Jaguars.
“He sure did a lot tonight; that’s all that matters,” cornerback Jalen Ramsey said, calling Henry’s 99-yard second-quarter touchdown run, “A hell of a run.”
The 99-yarder came midway through the second quarter, with Henry stiff-arming cornerback A.J. Bouye and linebackers Leon Jacobs and Myles Jack during the run.
“He’s a good stiff arm player,” Head Coach Doug Marrone said of Henry. “You’ve got to go low on him. You saw Jalen went low on him late in the game; a couple of guys went low on him there. I think you’ve just got to go ahead and get low on him. That’s the only way to tackle him. He’s a tough player to tackle.”
Adrian Peterson set the record of 296 yards rushing in a single game with the Minnesota Vikings in 2007.
“Their offense ran the ball at their will,” Gipson said, adding of Henry, “He could have broken the record if they had let him.”
The Titans finished with 264 rushing yards. They rushed for 150 yards in a 9-6 victory over the Jaguars in Jacksonville in September, 116 in a 15-10 victory over the Jaguars in Nashville last December and 179 in a 37-16 victory over the Jaguars in Jacksonville in September of 2017.
“The Titans seem to be able to exploit that every time, every year since I’ve been here,” Gipson said. “I don’t have the answers to that. You can’t put it on the calls [by the coaches]. Guys out there missing tackles … that’s what it was.”
The game’s turning point came midway through the second quarter. Trailing 7-2, the Jaguars drove to the Titans 7 and faced 2nd-and-3. Quarterback Cody Kessler converted 4th-and-1 from the 5 with a two-yard run, but the Jaguars failed to score. Three runs by Fournette netted two yards and Kessler threw incomplete to fullback Tommy Bohanon on third down. Henry’s 99-yard run came one play after Fournette failed to score on 4th-and-goal from the 1. “We like to go north and south,” Marrone said of Fournette. Added Kessler: “That was big. You have to capitalize on those, when you have four chances from the two or three. That would have been a turning point in the game.”
Kessler, making his second consecutive start after replacing Blake Bortles, completed 25 of 43 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown. He also was sacked four times and was pressured on multiple occasions. He lost a fumble in the second half when he was sacked by defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and linebacker Sharif Finch. “His toughness is not an issue at all,” Marrone of Kessler. “We’re getting pressure and we’re getting forced out of the pocket. We didn’t do a good job up front. We got beat up front.” Added Kessler: “The offensive line did a great job. We’ve had some injuries and some guys playing injured. They fought as hard as they could, and that’s all I ask from them there. I tell them, ‘Give me everything you’ve got,’ and they did. It’s on me to make some plays outside the pocket and help them out a little bit.”
Marrone: “I’m heavily disappointed.”
Marrone on the Titans’ four-game winning streak against the Jaguars: “They have us right now. That’s the last time we play them this year. Next year will be a different team.”
Gipson: “There wasn’t much Coach Marrone could say after the game. There wasn’t much he needed to say after the game. That was just a true drum. At the end of the day, we came out flat. Their defense made plays. Our defense didn’t.”
Wide receiver Keelan Cole: “Every week we’ve been assured by coaches we’re working hard. We’ve got to believe we’re working hard. We’re going out there working because it’s or job. We’re giving it our all in practice and in the game. We’re just coming out on the short end. Somebody has to win. Somebody has to lose. They came out on the upper end.”
Defensive end Calais Campbell: “We didn’t quit. We didn’t stop fighting. It was their night. They made play after play. We have to wear it. I have to watch tape, but I didn’t see anybody quit in my opinion. Guys were out there fighting. At the end of the day, it’s on all of us, we have to wear it. Hopefully, the next time we show up on the field, we play better than this.”