Ti­tans can rest up af­ter win­ning 2 of 3 games in 11-day span

Texarkana Gazette - - SPORTS -

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Mike Vra­bel asked his Ten­nessee Ti­tans to play phys­i­cal in their third game in 11 days. With Der­rick Henry lead­ing the way with a hand­ful of rush­ing records, they did just that with a big vic­tory to stay in the AFC play­off chase.

Now they get a week­end to rest be­fore their fi­nal road trip of the sea­son, and then an­other short week.

“They’ve done ev­ery­thing we asked them to do,” Vra­bel said Fri­day on a con­fer­ence call. “So, it’ll be good to get some time off, get some guys healed up. I have to do a good job of man­ag­ing the sched­ule, and still get­ting us ready for the Gi­ants, but try­ing to get ev­ery­body back that we could pos­si­bly get back to help us try to win an­other game.”

Vra­bel didn’t have in­jury up­dates for any of the Ti­tans hurt in Thurs­day night’s 30-9 rout of the Jack­sonville Jaguars.

Af­ter that call with re­porters, ESPN.com re­ported tight end Jonnu Smith, hurt on Henry’s NFL record-ty­ing 99-yard touch­down run, will miss the rest of the sea­son with an in­jured knee. NFL Net­work re­ported right tackle Jack Con­klin will miss a few weeks with his own in­jured knee.

Los­ing Smith would hurt the most. The Ti­tans al­ready lost three-time Pro Bowl tight end De­lanie Walker in the sea­son opener, while vet­eran Den­nis Kelly is in line to re­place Con­klin af­ter com­ing off the bench Thurs­day night. Kelly has started nine games for the Ti­tans over the past three sea­sons.

But the Ti­tans are com­ing off the fran­chise’s best rush­ing per­for­mance in nearly a decade with Henry turn­ing in 238 yards on just 17 car­ries for the best out­put in the NFL this sea­son. Henry not only tied Tony Dorsett’s 99-yard touch­down run for the long­est in NFL his­tory, but he also took the fran­chise rush­ing mark from Chris Johnson — set against the Jaguars on Nov. 1, 2009.

The Ti­tans ran for 305 yards in that game and fin­ished with 264 yards on Thurs­day night. That topped their pre­vi­ous best this sea­son by 100 yards and helped Ten­nessee im­prove to 5-1 at home.

Be­ing able to run ef­fec­tively in the cold of De­cem­ber cer­tainly can help, and the Ti­tans visit the Gi­ants (4-8) on Dec. 16 be­fore wrap­ping up against Wash­ing­ton (6-6) and In­di­anapo­lis (6-6) in Nashville.

Vra­bel said the key will be con­sis­tency and run­ning like that each week. Henry will have a chance to help do that af­ter not start­ing the last four games. Henry now leads the Ti­tans with 712 yards and a ca­reer-high nine TDs rush­ing, av­er­ag­ing 4.9 yards per carry af­ter his record-set­ting night.

“His at­ti­tude and his prepa­ra­tion has re­mained consistent,” Vra­bel said. “That was al­ways good to see. We’ll try to keep that go­ing, ob­vi­ously we have to try to keep that go­ing. Just the con­fi­dence that it had for ev­ery­body on the team (Thurs­day) night.”

Henry, who has been as hard on him­self as any­one this sea­son, said his con­cen­tra­tion is on fin­ish­ing runs and be­ing ef­fi­cient and consistent.

“I haven’t been that all year, and that’s my main fo­cus from here on out,” Henry said.

First, some rest af­ter the Ti­tans moved up mo­men­tar­ily to the sev­enth spot in the AFC, just out of the sec­ond wild-card po­si­tion held by Bal­ti­more. But Ten­nessee still needs lots of help with four teams still hold­ing tiebreak­ers, in­clud­ing head-to­head losses.

Cor­ner­back Lo­gan Ryan said the Ti­tans are in sur­vive-and-ad­vance mode.

“Right now, we know what time of year it is, and we’re putting all our chips for­ward and go­ing on to New York next week,” Ryan said.

AP Photo/Mark Zaleski

■ Ten­nessee Ti­tans in­side line­backer Jayon Brown (55) and de­fen­sive end Jur­rell Casey (99) cel­e­brate a sack against Jack­sonville Jaguars quar­ter­back Cody Kessler (6) dur­ing the sec­ond half of an NFL foot­ball game Dec. 6 in Nashville, Tenn.

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