It’s not all that often that one specific play actually wins or loses a football game. Most games feature 100 plays or more, with the average game in 2018 actually featuring just over 126 plays. Inside each of those plays are several battles, some of them one-on-one and others two-on-one or three-on-two or some other combination. And it’s through all of those combinations, over the course of 100 plays or more, that each NFL game is typically decided.
But sometimes one play really does win a game outright. And that was the case on Thursday night.
The play began on the Titans’ 1-yard line and took place midway through the second quarter. At the time, the Titans were leading the Jaguars 7-2, the result of an early touchdown by Derrick Henry and a later safety on a muffed punt return by Cameron Batson. The Jags had driven themselves right down the field after the safety punt, and they’d even converted on fourth-and-inches inside the Titans’ 5-yard line and eventually gotten themselves to the 1.
And then one play changed the course of the game.
I’m talking, of course, about the tackle made by Titans rookie Rashaan Evans, who sliced through a pair of blockers on fourth-and-goal from the Titans’ 1-yard line and tackled Leonard Fournette before he was able to break the line of scrimmage, let alone the goal line. Evans stopped the Jaguars from taking the lead with a terrific tackle, and on the very next snap, Derrick Henry made absolutely sure the Titans would never relinquish their lead when he rumbled 99 yards to the end zone, throwing not one, not two, not three, but four stiff-arms at helpless Jaguars defenders along the way.
Henry didn’t stop there. He continued right on bowling through Jaguars defenders for the rest of the night. By the end of his historic evening, Henry had racked up 238 rushing yards (a Titans record) on 17 carries, along with four touchdowns, all on the ground. In so doing, he became the ninth player in NFL history to rush for at least 200 yards and score at least four times in the same game. The other eight players all had at least 22 carries in the games where they reached those marks, though. Henry had just 17. (And he seemingly broke about 100 tackles on those 17 carries. The Jaguars did not do a good job of bringing him — or anyone else — to the ground.)
As for the Jaguars, their best play of the game likely came when Calais Campbell actually managed to take Henry down BEHIND THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE (I swear!) on the first play of the fourth quarter. They did not do much else of note, with the exception of a couple leaping grabs by Dede Westbrook, who for a lot of the night seemed like the only Jaguar who really showed up to play.
Not to be forgotten, the Tennessee defense flew around the field all night as well. They held the Jaguars to just 3.8 yards per play, sacked Cody Kessler four times and allowed just two conversions on 12 third-down attempts. Rashaan Evans and Logan Ryan and Jurrell Casey and Wesley Woodyard and Jayon Brown and Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo all flashed at one point or another. But after Henry’s monster run, and the two he added later, they didn’t really need to.
Here are a few more things to know about Tennessee’s 30-9 victory.
Beast Quake 2.0
It’s unlikely that you’ll see a more impressive play all season than this ridiculous 99-yard touchdown run from Derrick Henry, which was pretty much dubbed Beast Quake 2.0 while Henry was still on his way to the end zone.
I mean … just count the stiff-arms that Henry throws in that sequence. After breaking a tackle just beyond the line of scrimmage, Henry sprints to the left edge but can’t quite beat A.J. Bouye to the corner, so he just literally throws Bouye backward. Leon Jacobs chases Henry down about 25 yards farther downfield, but Henry hits him with not one but two stiff-arms while making his way toward the red zone, where he finally fights off Myles Jack with one last stiff-arm and heads into the end zone.
This is not normal stuff, folks. Four stiff-arm runs are pretty unusual but 99-yard touchdown runs are even more so. Henry’s was just the second 99-yard TD run in NFL history.
It was, however, Henry’s third touchdown run of 70 yards or more in the past three seasons. And while that might seem unusual given that he is a humongous man who is generally known as a power runner rather than a speed guy, maybe you won’t think it’s quite as unusual when you see that the guy in second place in terms of the number of 70-plus-yard touchdown runs since 2016 is Henry’s opponent in this game: Leonard Fournette.
Incredibly long touchdown runs are actually becoming more common in recent years, even as the number of runs overall has been declining as the league favors the pass. Here’s a tidbit from Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders:
I’m not sure what the exactly explanation is (more spread offenses resulting in lighter run fronts and better athletes at the running back position would be my best guess) but that’s a pretty clear trend. And Henry is now part of it.
The Titans came into this game with a record of 6-6 and badly needing a victory to keep themselves in the playoff picture. They got what they needed and are now just a half-game back of the Ravens for the No. 6 seed in the AFC.
The Dolphins, Colts and Broncos are all 6-6 as well, and they’ve got games against the Patriots, Texans, and 49ers, respectively, this Sunday. The Colts own the tiebreaker over the Titans, but the two teams play each other in the final week of the season so Tennessee doesn’t necessarily need to finish the year with a better record in order avoid the divisional tiebreaker and get into the postseason. The Titans just took the tiebreaker from the Broncos (for now) based on record in conference games.
This is all going to get very confusing down the stretch, but the Titans can do themselves a lot of favors by just winning out in their final three contests.
The best-looking Jaguars uniforms in recent memory
I wouldn’t necessarily say the Jaguars are known for having terrible uniforms. Right now they’re known for having a very strong defense (tonight’s performance notwithstanding) and being “The Good Place’s” favorite football team. In recent years they’ve been known for their subpar quarterback scouting (Blake Bortles and Blaine Gabbert) and early in their existence they were known for producing players like Tony Boselli and Fred Taylor and Mark Brunell.
They’ve also had some pretty terrible uniforms over the years. But not Thursday! These all-white jams they wore during this game were NICE. Check em:
They didn’t exactly help the performance on the field but man, I think the Jags should go with the all-white duds more often.
Dede Westbrook shows off
OK so let’s actually try to praise the Jaguars for something they did on the field, because when a guy runs for four touchdowns against you it has to hurt and you deserve some good feelings. Dede Westbrook showed some stuff in this game!
Westbrook, in his second year out of Oklahoma, had 46 catches for 553 yards and four scores coming into this game, and he added to those totals with a seven-catch, 88-yard night that included a touchdown. As mentioned in the intro, he was basically the only Jaguar that did anything worth mentioning. And a couple of Westbrook’s grabs — including the score — were actually really damn nice.
So, that’s something, I guess.
Let’s not pretend the Titans played a perfect game. Players other than Henry stepped on the field, and some of them even made mistakes. Take this one from Marcus Mariota, for example.
That’s a terrible throw to a wide-open receiver at a time when the Titans were seemingly marching right down the field for their second consecutive score to open the game and it looked like all the Titans would have to do was not literally give the ball to the Jaguars in order to coast to an easy win. They ended up coasting to an easy win anyway, but this pick made it more difficult than it should have been.
Just a few minutes later, Cameron Batson muffed a punt, picked it up, and for some reason ran backward into the end zone … where he was promptly tackled for a safety.
That’s not great, either. A better team than the Jags would capitalize on those opportunities they were gifted, and the Titans will have to be better down the stretch.
As mentioned above, the Titans moved to 7-6 with the victory and are momentarily just a half-game back of the Ravens for the No. 6 seed in the AFC. They have a 10-day break before they visit the Giants next weekend, a game you can stream on fuboTV (Try for free), and they finish out their season with games against Washington and the Colts, both at home. Being that there is seemingly no correlation between which Titans team we see one week and which we see the next, well, we should probably not expect a specific result in any of those games.
The Jags, meanwhile, saw their record drop to 4-9, which is still fifth-worst in the NFL. They have a home game against Washington next week and finish the season with road trips to play against the Dolphins and Texans. They are firmly outside the playoff picture themselves but do have three more chances to play spoiler.
Feel free to check out our live blog of the festivities below.
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