The outcome was still in doubt, but the Kansas City Chiefs knew they had a major problem on their hands entering the second half of Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans.
And knowing and addressing the issues are two very different things.
While the Chiefs understood Titans running back Derrick Henry posed an immediate threat, they couldn’t do much to stop him. Henry’s two rushing touchdowns helped the Titans secure a come-from-behind 35-32 win.
“They have a good running back and we can’t fall asleep,” Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark said. “We all knew that the second half is his best half.”
The Chiefs limited Henry to 48 yards on nine attempts in the first half and had to feel good about that performance as the two teams were tied at 13.
But if Henry was asleep in the first half, he more than woke up in the second half with 140 yards and the two scores on 14 carries. The first touchdown came on a 68-yard run midway through the third quarter, giving the Titans a 20-19 lead.
The Chiefs eventually retook a 29-20 lead in the fourth quarter before Henry helped cut into it with a 1-yard plunge to finish a 10-play, 75-yard drive. Among those 10 plays, Henry touched the ball seven times.
“That shows you the type of back he is,” Clark said. “... (W)e knew they drive their offense through him. They kept at it.”
Clark’s assessment echoed Titans coach Mike Vrabel’s.
“Today, he ran physical, he ran hard,” Vrabel said “It was not easy early, like a lot of games.”
Henry’s tough running had an effect on the Chiefs’ defense even before his 1-yard touchdown run.
“Our ability to stick with it there in the second half really made the difference when we were able to pound out 10, 12-yard runs,” Vrabel said. “And then ultimately watching those guys leave the game, or be on a knee, or be tired, or banged up, and then walk in the end zone.”
The Chiefs entered Sunday’s game thinking they were prepared to deal with Henry. Safety Daniel Sorensen said they had a good week week of practices with the Titans’ leading rusher specifically in mind.
“We definitely came into the game trying to slow him,” Sorensen said. “He breaks a long run on us, but I think, again, it goes back to the details and everybody just being sound, and I think we had a pretty good plan. Just a couple of plays here and there that we need to execute better.”
Henry is the fifth running back to rush for 100 or more yards against the Chiefs this season, joining Mark Ingram, Kerryon Johnson, Marlon Mack and Carlos Hyde.