You have to the think the NFL is fully in the tank for a Packers-Chiefs Super Bowl on this, the 100th anniversary of the league. The 2020 Super Bowl would embody the New NFL — all analytics and the outcome riding on the shoulders of two outstanding quarterbacks. As an outside observer, you have to admit that there is a certain pleasant symmetry to a potential rematch of Super Bowl I too.
But, it is in Nashville where the spirit of Ye Old Timey Football lives and breathes, as embodied in the simple, violent joys of an uncommon athlete — Derrick Henry:
The Titans have delivered two of the most satisfying wins of the season by executing the platonic ideal of smashmouth football, behind a player who has a legitimate claim to being the most physically talented running back in the history of the game.
The surging Titans have been keyed by a criminally underrated offensive line, Ryan Tannehill’s new lease on life, and a bend-don’t-break defense that somehow has been badly outgained in two road playoff games and has still delivered two upset victories. But, of course, it is through Henry where all rivers must flow
And for many of the Tide faithful, it will be Henry’s continued dominance that we tune in for today.
What Henry has done down the stretch has been simply amazing. Henry has already amassed three 150-yard rushing performances in the Playoffs. That is a claim that only six other men have been able to stake a claim to. Terrell Davis leads all players with six 150-yard playoff games. But the rest are an equally-exclusive club: Franco Harris, John Riggins, Marcus Allen, Eric Dickerson, Thurman Thomas and Le’Veon Bell — six of those players are in the Hall of Fame; one was on a HOF track; and all but Thurman Thomas are Super Bowl winners.
For all of the accolades and unprecedented success that Henry has had this season, Kansas City Chiefs defensive end, Frank Clark, has decided to splash some kerosene on Henry’s already-lit motivation:
“He’s not hard to hit,” Clark told James Palmer of NFL Media. “He’s just a big guy. 240, 245, 250. Honestly he should be running harder at his weight and at his size. I don’t see no difficulty in tackling him. . . . He’s just easy to me up front because I don’t look at any running back like that can’t be tackled.”
“He’s not one of the best guys at breaking tackles to me honestly.”
If that wasn’t enough, there’s this: “He’s just a big body and when people look at him they’re scared to tackle him or they look at him and they’re scared to play aggressive. I think I’m the aggressor. I know I am.”
I guess Frank Clark forgot that he isn’t hitting a woman in a hotel room today — what he’s trying to hit is the most physically intimidating running back since Earl Campbell, and perhaps ever — all 6’4” 247 pounds of him. In the Chiefs’ first try at stopping El Tractorcito, it didn’t go so well — Henry keyed a Titans upset in Arrowhead, rushing for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
At least the rest of Clark’s teammates recognize the tall task at hand today:
“It’s going to take a lot of us hitting him and tackling him, more than one guy,” linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “You’ve got to take his legs out. We’ve talked all week [about] killing the engine, hitting him in his legs and thighs and chopping him down. When you tackle him high he tends to carry you for about 5 more yards.”
Can Henry fuel an third upset today on this improbable playoff run? Or, will the modern game win out over old school manball? The Titans have the taller task ahead of them, but they’ll have some support from uncommon quarters: not everyone wearing red today is a Chiefs fan.
(And I guess the fraudulent Packers get smoked in San Francisco today too.)
Here’s your game thread for today. Feel free to show appreciate to the King:
Tennessee Titans (+7) at Kansas City Chiefs
3:05 EST CBS
Green Bay Packers (+7.5) at San Francisco 49ers
6:40 EST FOX
Will Derrick Henry post another 150-yard game?
This poll is closed
Yes, in a Titans win
Yes, in a Titans loss
No, in a Titans win
No, in a Titans loss