Derrick Henry, the product of if a bulldozer and walrus had a baby, has been the story of the Tennessee Titans’ surprising playoff run. The praise has been rightfully given, as Henry claimed the rushing title during the 2019 regular season by being the only running back with over 100 yards per game. In fact, these are the games where running backs had the most rushing yards in a game this season:
1. Leonard Fournette: 225 yards
2. Derrick Henry: 211 (Week 17)
3. Derrick Henry: 195 (Second round of playoffs)
4. Saquon Barkley: 189
5. Derrick Henry: 188 (Week 10)
6. Derrick Henry: 182 (First round of playoffs)
Henry has delivered it when it counts and by single-handedly destroying the Patriots’ hopes and dreams (and I hope I don’t regret this but maybe their dynasty?) he has earned a statue in every city in the country. In his last eight games, he has had 1,273 rushing yards, good for 6.27 yards per carry and 11 TD’s. In fact, if Derrick Henry continued his last eight games for a whole season, it would look like this:
Now I have been told by many members in M-FANS that running backs don’t matter and the Titans have been a top-five offensive line when it comes to run blocking. So, let’s talk about something that actually does matter: special teams.
When it comes to special teams DVOA, the Titans are 29th in the NFL at -2.5% worse than the average NFL team. They would be dead last if it wasn’t for their savior and punt god Brett Kern. The Titans have made 44.4% of their field goals this year. Let the horribleness of that resonate. A 44.4% field goal percentage would be 23rd in the NBA. It was good for last in the NFL by a gap wider than Michael Strahan’s teeth:
It would be fine if these misses didn’t affect the outcomes of the Titans’ games but oh boy did they ever:
- Week 2: Loss 17-19 to the Colts (Missed one FG)
- Week 5: Lost 7-14 to the Bills (Missed four FGs)
- Week 15: Lost 21-24 to the Texans (Missed one FG)
On October 21st, 2007, Titans kicker Rob Bironas kicked an NFL record eight field goals, including the game-winner. The Titans had eight field goals this whole season. In fact, they had more wins (nine) than field goals. It was truly the strangest kicking season ever. Before the AFC Championship Game, the Titans had done what every middle-aged dad with a broken lawnmower can’t do and have just given up on the unit as a whole.
Every Titans possession should end in a Derrick Henry touchdown or a perfect punt from Brett Kern. After all this build-up, I will finally talk about him. It was Kern, not Henry, who received 68% of All-Pro votes making him a first-team All-Pro punter and receiving high praise from Bill Belichick who called him “probably the best punter in the league.” Kern led the league with a total of 37 punts inside the 20 yard-line and an impressive two touchbacks on the year. I made a punting index which combines average punting yards and the percentage a punter downs their punt inside the 20. Here are the top 10 punters:
In a low-scoring defensive battle like the Patriots-Titans playoff game, just ask Jim Harbaugh or Pete Carroll how much field position matters. With the Titans up 14-13 to begin the second half, they punt from the TEN 43 and Kern sticks it to the 13 yard-line. This leads to New England not being able to convert and their punter shanking a punt that only goes 29 yards. After the Titans offense fails to get a first down, Kern puts a punt at the 7 yard-line – putting the Patriots in the shadow of their own goalposts. The Titans then exploit a loophole and run just under two minutes off the clock while ending it with icing on the cake and another Kern punt inside the 10:
Finally, with New England sending everybody to block the Titans’ final punt with 25 seconds left, Kern punts it 58 yards, wastes 10 seconds off the clock and down it at the 1 yard-line. A truly MVP performance from someone who Tony Romo said might be the Titans’ best player.