Henry’s 99-Yard TD high­lights record-set­ting day

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - SPORTS -

The Jack­sonville Jaguars had ab­so­lutely no an­swer for Der­rick Henry on Thurs­day night. The su­per­sized run­ning back for the Ten­nessee Ti­tans bull­dozed his way past a team that prides it­self on de­fense in one of the most au­da­cious rush­ing dis­plays in NFL his­tory.

The num­bers were stag­ger­ing. Henry, the 2015 Heis­man Tro­phy win­ner, car­ried the ball 17 times for 238 yards and four touch­downs in Ten­nessee’s 30-9 vic­tory. It was just the 10th time since 1950 that a run­ning back has rushed for at least 200 yards and four touch­downs, and the 6-foot3, 247-pound Henry did it on five fewer car­ries than any of his pre­de­ces­sors while av­er­ag­ing an out­ra­geous 14 yards per rush.

There were plenty of mem­o­rable mo­ments in the game for Henry, but none topped the play mid­way through the se­cond quar­ter in which he fought his way through sev­eral tackle at­tempts to match Tony Dorsett of the Dal­las Cow­boys for the long­est touch­down run in NFL his­tory.

“Once I got in the open field it was go­ing to take all of them,” Henry said at his postgame news con­fer­ence. “I def­i­nitely wasn’t go­ing down easy.”

The record-ty­ing play was set up when Ten­nessee stuffed Jack­sonville’s Leonard Four­nette at the goal line to turn the ball over on downs, giv­ing the Ti­tans the ball just in­side Ten­nessee’s 1-yard line.

Henry, whose long­est run of the sea­son com­ing into the game was just 16 yards, broke left through the line and was met by Pro Bowl cor­ner­back A.J. Bouye just in­side the 20-yard line. He dis­patched Bouye with a vi­cious stiff-arm to the face, ran side-by­side with line­backer Leon Ja­cobs be­fore sim­ply whip­ping the pur­suer to the ground, and then ran through a half­hearted tackle at­tempt by line­backer Myles Jack at around Jack­sonville’s 20-yard line on his way into the end zone.

Re­peat­edly asked by re­porters to sum up his feel­ings on his big day, Henry chose in­stead to talk of the stel­lar game-plan and ex­e­cu­tion by his team’s of­fen­sive line. He de­scribed a scene of pan­de­mo­nium among his team­mates on the side­line fol­low­ing the long run.

“Ev­ery­body was just go­ing crazy,” he said. “I was try­ing to hit hel­mets with ev­ery­body, dap ev­ery­body up. It was a crazy play.”

Dorsett’s 99-yarder had come on Jan. 3, 1983, in a game against the Min­nesota Vik­ings. Like Henry, Dorsett had to break a few tack­les on his way to the end zone, and while the Cow­boys put him at a dis­ad­van­tage by mis­tak­enly hav­ing just 10 men on the field for the play, Dorsett ended up get­ting a lit­tle help down­field from Drew Pear­son, a wide re­ceiver, who pro­vided a key block deep into the run.

If Henry had just the 99-yard run, it would have been a mem­o­rable night. But in by far the best game of his pro ca­reer, he also had touch­down runs of 3, 16 and 54 yards against a de­fense that was ranked 16th in the NFL against the run com­ing into the game.

Henry ap­peared des­tined for a fifth touch­down in the fourth quar­ter when the Ti­tans had first-and-goal at Jack­sonville’s 1-yard line. But Henry, show­ing some self­less­ness, in­sisted that the team let his backup, Dion Lewis, try to punch the ball in. Lewis ran the ball twice, los­ing one yard.

“We’ve both got to eat,” Henry said of his push to leave Lewis in the game. “I just care about my team­mates, and I wanted to see him get a touch­down.”

The crowd, which had been chant­ing for Henry’s re­turn, got its wish on third-and-goal, with Henry jog­ging back onto the field to rau­cous ap­plause. It was not to be, how­ever, as Henry was stopped for a 1-yard loss on third down and Ten­nessee turned the ball over on downs when Mar­cus Mar­i­ota’s pass to Corey Davis fell in­com­plete.

The Ti­tans, who be­fore mov­ing to Ten­nessee played as the Hous­ton Oil­ers, are a fran­chise with a proud his­tory of great run­ning backs, in­clud­ing Earl Camp­bell, Ed­die Ge­orge and Chris John­son. Henry, uti­liz­ing the blend of power and speed that made him such a dom­i­nant force at Alabama, broke John­son’s fran­chise record for rush­ing yards in a game while dras­ti­cally out­play­ing Four­nette, who was lim­ited to 14 car­ries for 36 yards.

Henry, who had cracked 100 yards just twice in 43 ca­reer games com­ing into Thurs­day, nearly out­gained the en­tire Jack­sonville of­fense by him­self, with his 238 yards fall­ing just short of the Jaguars’ 255.

It was the NFL’s first 200-yard, four-touch­down per­for­mance since Jonas Gray did it for New Eng­land in 2014. Jim Brown, the Hall of Fame run­ning back of the Cleve­land Browns, man­aged to ac­com­plish the feat twice.

“Speech­less,” Mar­i­ota said when asked to sum up Henry’s record-set­ting day. “I had a front-row seat to it, and it was awe­some.”

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