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Derrick Henry posts second big day in Titans' win

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Derrick Henry had a big night on a large stage last week, the type of night no one expects a player to replicate.

He came close to doing so Sunday.

Henry rushed 33 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns in Tennessee's grind-it-out, shutout victory over the New York Giants. His average of 5.2 yards per carry produced just his second 100-plus-yard game of the year in the latest iteration of what has become a trend for the Titans, no matter the coaching staff. When the season gets into its twilight, the Titans feed the King.

"He's been a stud these last two games," Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan said of Henry. "I've been very impressed with him as a football player.

"I have been impressed with Derrick since the minute he got here. I think he's been a pro, staying the course. When unfortunate things happen there's two ways to handle it -- you can pout and whine or you can work hard and become what Derrick has become. I am very proud of him."

The unfortunate things Lewan alluded to were largely a lack of usage for Henry, the listed starter who often saw significantly fewer touches than fellow running back Dion Lewis. Something similar happened with Henry when DeMarco Murray was still in town. And yet, the Titans have found late-season success by doing the same thing -- and it's producing big numbers for Henry.

"I think you just get a feel for how it is going early," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of Tennessee's run-heavy approach Sunday. "I think that that was what we wanted to try to do, was try to build off of last week and carry over the confidence of running the football from last week, not that any one week will determine what you do the next week or the success or failure that you would have, but I thought we tried to carry the confidence over."

The weather has something to do with it -- it was a cold, wet day in New York -- but there's also the incentive of unchaining your linemen and feeding your big back the ball. Enter an offensive meeting and tell your linemen "we're going to run the crap out of the ball" and you're guaranteed to get them energized.

"The O-linemen seemed to embrace that," Vrabel said. "Obviously, the receivers are a huge part of that, but then seeing Derrick -- and then Dion (Lewis) came in there and gave us a little lift late in the game, had a couple huge runs on third down -- 10, 12-yard runs -- so that was great to see."

Perhaps even more impressive was the stark contrast in production between Henry and rookie sensation Saquon Barkley. While Henry was churning up yards on the ground, Barkley was gaining very little of anything. The runner from Penn State finished the day with just 31 yards on 14 carries, and 25 receiving yards on four catches.

Barkley has been the heart, soul and legs of the Giants' offense this season, making him a good target for opposing defenses. The Titans did just that in Week 15, per Giants team reporter Madelyn Burke:

It's no surprise, then, that the Giants didn't score a point.

"He is a really, really good player, and it takes everybody," Vrabel said of Barkley. "There were times when one guy made the tackle, but the mentality coming in was that we needed more than one guy there. You saw (Kevin Byard) make a great tackle -- it looked like he was going to bounce out and had some yards there, and K.B. made a really, really nice tackle to keep him from gaining a first down.

"We actually, I think, stopped them on the next play to get off the field, so I thought that was a really critical play in a big moment."

For two teams headed in different directions for at least this season, one loss will be taken like a body blow and ultimately shrugged off. The same game could serve as a galvanizing example of what the other team's offense -- a volatile group in terms of production -- can do when it commits to imposing its will on an opponent.

At this time of year, that can ultimately be the difference between narrowly missing the playoffs, and scoring a postseason win.

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