INDIANAPOLIS (AP)Normally, when Tennessee running back Derrick Henry visits Indianapolis, he’s a sure thing.
Sunday was different.
This time, the two-time NFL rushing champion, who led the Titans to five straight victories over the Colts and four straight at Lucas Oil Stadium, struggled to get started and came up short on one of the game’s critical plays.
“We’ve got to be better as leaders, I’ve got to be better,” Henry said after a rare 23-16 loss to Indy. “As leaders – and I’m one of them – we’ve got to lock in each week. Right now, it’s too up-and-down.”
Until Sunday, it was the Colts who had struggled to lock down Henry.
He started the day with seven 100-yard games in 14 tries against Indianapolis (3-2), six coming in the previous seven contests. The only time he failed came in 2021 when Henry broke a bone in his foot. And his 1,287 career yards were the third-most he’s produced against one team.
So with Henry coming off his best game of the season in last week’s victory over Cincinnati, everyone expected Henry would kick his game into high gear. Again.
Instead, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner couldn’t find the usual holes in an offensive line that just welcomed back rookie left guard Peter Skoronski and was still missing starting tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere. Skoronski hadn’t played since having an appendectomy Sept. 16 while Petit-Frere was on a roster exemption following the conclusion of his four-game gambling suspension.
The result: Henry logged 13 carries for 43 yards, his lowest rushing total against Indy since his rookie season. He couldn’t convert a fourth-and-1 from the Colts 5-yard line with 8:03 to go and the Titans down 17-13.
“It just wasn’t there for me today,” he said. “I’ve got to be better. In that situation, I’ve got to be able to get 1 yard, that one definitely stung.”
Henry wasn’t the only one having an uncharacteristic day for Tennessee (2-3).
Tennessee’s usually stout run defense vanished, too. It entered Week 5 ranked fourth, with a 10-game streak of holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards and no 100-yard runners in 20 games.
It didn’t take Indy long to show it was going to end both streaks.
Late in the first quarter, Zack Moss sprinted through a hole and didn’t stop until his 56-yard TD gave the Colts a 7-3 lead.
“I was just like, ‘Please don’t get caught, this is going to be so sweet,’” Colts center Ryan Kelly said after the Colts ran for 193 yards. “To speed through the hole with his vision, I think is incredible. Like I said, there were going to be some tight windows in there, and he found them.”
Then, after Tyjae Spears – not Henry – opened the second half with a scoring run to give Tennessee the lead, Moss found another opening. This time, Moss did a Henry impression while plowing his way through the Titans defense for a 3-yard score and a 17-13 lead.
“We take a lot of pride in that and that’s something we need to get fixed,” Titans defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons said. “That’s not our style and that’s not what we need around here in Tennessee.”
What the Titans also need is the offensive line to get in sync and Henry to revert to form – the same formula Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel has relied on for so many years.
“We’ve got to be able to run the football and do the things we’re known for around here,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to pick up a yard. Short yardage sometimes can be a little dirty. They tackled us and we didn’t get it. I didn’t think that was the game. I felt we had an opportunity to stop them and get the ball back. We didn’t do that.”
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