Derrick Henry, Titans Stun Tom Brady, Patriots at Home in 2020 AFC Wild Card

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJanuary 5, 2020

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 04: Derrick Henry #22 of the Tennessee Titans carries the ball against the New England Patriots in the second quarter of the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 04, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Derrick Henry gained 204 yards from scrimmage and scored a touchdown as the Tennessee Titans nabbed a 20-13 upset win over the New England Patriots on Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

The Titans rode Henry to victory with a run-oriented offense in which no Tennessee pass-catcher had more than two receptions. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw just 15 times and completed eight passes for 72 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Henry's finest moment occurred on a seven-play touchdown drive late in the second quarter when he gained all 75 of the Titans' yards. He had chunk plays of 29 and 22 yards before he punched the ball in from the 1-yard line. The extra point gave the Titans a 14-13 lead.


.@KingHenry_2 picks up 29 yards! @Titans driving at the two-minute warning. #Titans #NFLPlayoffs 📺: #TENvsNE on CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/EF5fHZbZSf https://t.co/mDpwY3cGS5


Derrick Henry is running wild 💪 @KingHenry_2 #Titans 📺: #TENvsNE on CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/EF5fHZbZSf https://t.co/qidOEGPsHr


All Derrick Henry. 75 yards for @KingHenry_2 on that 75-yard TD drive! #Titans 📺: #TENvsNE on CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/EF5fHZbZSf https://t.co/rYbNn1Fl8c

The Tennessee defense also came to play, with linebacker Rashaan Evans amassing a game-high 10 tackles (three for a loss). He was instrumental on a goal-line stand late in the second quarter to hold the Pats to a field goal before the Henry drive.


Great goal-line stand. The @Titans defense stops three consecutive plays from the one-yard line. #Titans #NFLPlayoffs 📺: #TENvsNE on CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/EF5fHZbZSf https://t.co/jBc1xTmadq

Neither team gained more than 39 yards on any second-half drive. The Patriots only crossed into Titans territory once and could not get past the opposing 47-yard line.

Tennessee controlled the clock for much of the fourth quarter and punted the ball down to the Pats' 1-yard line with 15 seconds left. 


PERFECT PUNT. #Titans #NFLPlayoffs 📺: #TENvsNE on CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/EF5fHZbZSf https://t.co/4uzmmfw2BF

Cornerback Logan Ryan then snatched a pick-six with nine seconds remaining against ex-teammate Tom Brady, giving Tennessee the 20-13 edge.


PICK-6! The @Titans extend their lead with nine seconds left. #Titans #NFLPlayoffs 📺: #TENvsNE on CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/EF5fHZbZSf https://t.co/AOcwqlTSlc

A desperation Patriots kickoff return ended with a fumble recovered by the Titans to end the game.

Tennessee's earlier highlights included the game's first touchdown off a Tannehill 12-yard pass to tight end Anthony Firkser:


.@RyanTannehill1 delivers a strike to Firkser to put the @Titans ahead! #Titans #NFLPlayoffs 📺: #TENvsNE on CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/EF5fHZbZSf https://t.co/UaptKt75Sg

The Pats responded with a five-yard Julian Edelman end-around rush:


.@Edelman11 takes the handoff for the score! @Patriots take a 10-7 lead. #GoPats #NFLPlayoffs 📺: #TENvsNE on CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/EF5fHZbZSf https://t.co/hqICzMtzW3

Henry was too strong down the stretch, though. 

Tennessee has defeated a home favorite in the AFC Wild Card Round twice in the past three seasons. The Titans also did so against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017.

The Titans proceeded to lose to the Pats 35-14 in the AFC divisional matchup, but Tennessee has avenged that defeat in a playoff rematch two years later.

New England's season will end before the AFC Divisional Round for the first time since 2009 and the AFC Championship since 2011.


Notable Performances

Titans RB Derrick Henry: 34 carries, 182 yards, 1 TD; 1 catch, 22 yards

Titans QB Ryan Tannehill: 8-of-15, 72 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Titans TE Anthony Firkser: 2 catches, 23 yards, 1 TD

Patriots QB Tom Brady: 20-of-37, 209 yards, 1 INT

Patriots RB James White: 5 catches, 62 yards

Patriots WR Julian Edelman: 3 catches, 30 yards; 2 carries, 12 yards, 1 TD


Henry the Titans' Star, But Evans Deserves Credit Too

Henry is the author of one of the best rushing performances of this century.

The Titans went on the road to face the defending Super Bowl champions and came away victorious because their running back gashed the opposition for 204 yards on just 35 touches.

ESPN Stats & Info put Henry's night into context:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Derrick Henry: - Became the first player with 200 scrimmage yards against a Belichick-coached Patriots team in a playoff game - Set the franchise record for scrimmage yards in a playoff game Today is his 26th birthday. https://t.co/yYtKirCJzb

StatMuse also posted this bewildering stat regarding Henry's last seven games, including the playoffs:

StatMuse @statmuse

Derrick Henry has more rush yards (1,078) in his last 7 games than Saquon Barkley, Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara or Le'Veon Bell had in the entire season. https://t.co/jg34lLCPTB

And Henry has also become a force over his three postseason games (two in 2017):

NFL Research @NFLResearch

Derrick Henry's 444 scrimmage yards rank 2nd in the Super Bowl era for a player in their first 3 career playoff games. Only Arian Foster (510) had more. #Titans | @KingHenry_2

Henry was the Titans' MVP, but linebacker Rashaan Evans wasn't far behind.

The Pats offense had significant trouble moving the ball in the second half to the point where they never seriously threatened to score.

The first half was a different story, as New England scored 13 points, but it could have been much worse if Evans didn't come up with three tackles (two solo, one assisted) on all three of New England's goal-line runs after it earned a 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line late in the second half.

ESPN's Mina Kimes gave Evans credit:

Mina Kimes @minakimes

holy smokes, Rashaan Evans made two incredible plays on that goal line stand

And Andrew Bone of BamaInsider.com recognized the linebacker's efforts:

Andrew Bone @AndrewJBone

I know we are all talking about Derrick Henry’s performance tonight. Rashaan Evans also led the Titans in tackles tonight with 10. Both #BuiltByBama

Evans was impressive for the Titans in his second NFL season, accruing 111 tackles and eight quarterback hits while making 16 starts.

Henry and Evans may assume the hero role again versus the Baltimore Ravens during the divisional round.

Tennessee will lean on Henry once more and hope to move the ball and simultaneously win the time-of-possession battle to keep likely NFL MVP Lamar Jackson off the field.

And Evans will be called upon to stop a potent Ravens run game that ranks first in yardage.

We'll see how that matchup develops soon, but for now, Henry, Evans and the Titans can bask in the glow of an impressive win over the defending Super Bowl champs. 


Pats' Problems Reappear in Defeat

The Patriots went 12-4 and won the AFC East despite a sometimes leaky run defense and a sputtering passing attack in which Brady and most of his receivers weren't always in sync.

Both of those problems reared their ugly heads Saturday as the Pats failed to make the AFC Divisional Round for just the fourth time since 2001.

On the run defense side, the Pats vacillated between dominant performances and poor ones during the season.

The 2-14 Cincinnati Bengals notably ran for 164 yards on 32 carries against New England in Week 15, and the Ravens trampled the Pats for 210 yards and three touchdowns in Week 9.

The Pats may have had Football Outsiders' sixth-best run defense by DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), but as the Ravens showed, they're susceptible to top rushing attacks.

Few are better at running the ball than the Titans, and they took advantage, which allowed Tennessee to largely avoid a stingy Pats secondary.

However, the key to this game may have been the Pats' inability to get anything going through the air. As well as Henry did, the Titans still only had 272 yards of total offense on the night. They also didn't score once on offense after halftime.

The opportunity was there for New England to take advantage, but that didn't happen as the Pats offense sputtered.

The Patriots entered the game with just 5.2 yards per play on the season, which was 21st in the NFL. Their 6.1 net yards per attempt ranked only 16th.

The same inefficiencies popped up once again Saturday, with Brady throwing for just 5.6 yards per attempt. Two running backs and a tight end comprised the team's leading receivers, with wideouts combining for just seven catches for 68 yards.

A few drops even occurred, including a rare one from Edelman in the second half.

Evan Lazar of CLSN Media Network summed up the Pats offense well:

Evan Lazar @ezlazar

Entire game is a microcosm of the #Patriots offense this season. Nobody outside of Edelman can win 1v1, bad drops and penalties to stall drives, negative runs on first down. The whole thing.

Now everyone is left to wonder about the future of the New England offense with six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady entering free agency. The 42-year-old saw most of his numbers dip from 2018 and 2019, but his mostly inexperienced pass-catching crew did not have a good season either.

The answer to Brady's future will reveal itself eventually (the quarterback said postgame that retirement after this season is "pretty unlikely"), but the Pats are left to wonder what might have been after a dominant 8-0 start ended with five losses in their last nine games.


What's Next?

Tennessee will face the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday at 8:15 p.m. ET. The two former AFC Central rivals did not play each other in the regular season.


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