The Tennessee Titans are not only winning in these playoffs, but they are succeeding in a way that is different than what we have recently seen in this pass-happy NFL. On Saturday night in Baltimore, behind the running and throwing of RB Derrick Henry(threw TD pass against Baltimore), and a defense that bent but did not break, Tennessee was able to defeat the Ravens 28-12 in the Divisional Round.
The sixth-seeded Titans will now travel to Kansas City to battle the Chiefs in the AFC title game. This is a rematch of their Week 10 regular season matchup, where the Titans defeated Kansas City 35-32 in Tennessee.
Just like they did against the Patriots, the Titans gave the Ravens a heavy dose of Henry. The fourth-year back led the NFL in rushing this season, and in the playoffs, he has been a monster. Henry rushed for 195 yards and one rushing touchdown against Baltimore. In two playoff games(Patriots and Ravens), Henry has rushed for 377 yards and one rushing touchdown. Also, in four career playoff games, Henry has rushed for 561 yards, which is the most rushing yards by a player in their first four playoff games in NFL history.
Conversely, against the Patriots and Ravens, Titans QB Ryan Tannehill has thrown for only 160 yards, including completing 7 of 14 passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns against the Ravens. There is no need to put the ball in the air when you are getting that type of production on the ground. Now, there will come a time in these playoffs where Tannehill is going to have to put the ball in the air, which even in his limited opportunities, Tannehill has done a decent job of making it count. Of his 15 completions in these playoffs, three of them have gone for touchdowns. Fortunately for Tannehill, he has only had to throw the ball 29 times, while Henry has 64 carries in the playoffs.
Can Henry keep this going? Well, in the regular season, Kansas City ranked near the bottom of the league in rushing defense(26th). In their Week 10 matchup, Henry rushed for 188 yards, so there is a good possibility this continues. The key for any team is to try to get out early on Tennessee and force them to be a passing team. Against New England and Baltimore, the Titans had early leads.
Let’s not forget about this Titans’ defense. This defense is allowing only 12.5 points per game in the playoffs, and they have been very opportunistic. Tennessee’s defense has forced five turnovers, and while they gave up a lot of yards against Baltimore(530 yards), they kept them out of the end zone.
The great thing about a great running game and a good defense is that it travels, and Tennessee will have to go on the road one more time if they want to go to the Super Bowl.
This run for the Titans has been remarkable, but there is more work to do, and for them to accomplish their goals, they must continue to do it the old-fashioned way; they must keep running!