Time after time, Derrick Henry tried to puncture the Baltimore Ravens defense. Time after time, the NFL's leading rusher was blasted backward, stopped cold in his tracks.
Baltimore's defense flocked to the ball, stuffing Henry, holding the mammoth back to 40 rushing yards on 18 attempts, for a measly 2.2 yards per carry, in a 20-13 road victory.
"We played good team ball," Ravens defensive lineman Calais Campbell told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero after the victory. "Good team ball. Everybody did their job as best they could do it. We played with heart and emotion. We knew it was going to be a tough matchup. (Henry is) a king. He's a beast. 2,000 yards. But today, he wasn't going to run the ball."
Henry became just the eighth player in NFL history to breach the 2,000-yard mark, galloping for 2,027 and 17 touchdowns in 2020. Four of the five previous players to go over 2,000 yards lost in the Wild Card round. Henry made it five of six Sunday.
Baltimore made it tough on Henry to find any daylight, stuffing the box and filling every gap like they were one giant caulking gun. It was Henry's fewest total yards and yards per carry in a game since Week 6, 2019.
Even after they got down 10 points early, the Ravens' ability to stifle the run led to quick Titans drives in the second quarter that gave Lamar Jackson and the offense chances to claw back into the contest.
"Our defense, they was tired of hearing the noise," Jackson told ESPN's Lisa Salters after the win. "They did what they were supposed to do. Like they been talking about, you know they been doing it all week in practice. I feel like they have been doing it all season. We just came together as one, and we got it done."
Don Martindale's defense employed the perfect scheme to slow Henry, never giving the back enough of a crease to gash the second level. Baltimore held the Pro Bowl back to a long run of eight yards.
"They were the better team today. They had a plan and they executed it," Henry said after the game, via NFL Network's Michael Giardi. "I need to play better. I didn't play good enough."
Pernell McPhee played like a man possessed, controlling the edge every time Henry tried to pierce the corner. Derek Wolfe helped stack the middle, giving the RB zero daylight. McPhee and Wolfe each had six tackles, tied for the team lead. When two front-line players lead your team in tackles, you know you stuffed the opponent's run game all day.
Wolfe said the game plan was to bully the Titans' 6-foot-3, 247-pound behemoth, who regally terrorized defenses.
"Physical, physical, physical. Yeah, yeah, yeah," the lineman said.
With Henry unable to get going, the Titans offense went in the tank. On its final six possessions of the game, Tennessee earned just seven first downs, punted five times, and earned just three points. The Ravens' defensive dominance even got in Mike Vrabel's head, as he punted on fourth-and-2 from the Ravens' 40-yard-line in the fourth quarter instead of giving Henry a chance to get a big first down in a close game.
In John Harbaugh's 13 years at the helm of the Ravens, the Super Bowl-winning coach said it was one of the best performances he's seen from his D. That's high praise from a veteran coach who has seen many good performances from his defenses. Sunday was one for the books.