Derrick Henry has played four career games against the Kansas City Chiefs and has fared well. Will he run the show again on Sunday Night Football?
The title is only slightly hyperbolic. Derrick Henry currently leads the league in rushing attempts (166) and is ranked third in both rushing yards (759) and rushing touchdowns (7). He has been the centerpiece of the Tennessee Titans’ offense in 2022, and there is no evidence to suggest that changing.
Ryan Tannehill—questionable for Sunday night’s game—has left plenty to be desired this season. He’s thrown for just 1,097 yards, has only six touchdowns, and has chucked up three interceptions. Tannehill’s 146 pass attempts are the second least in all of football, and there seems to be little faith in Tennessee’s passing attack.
With Tannehill’s availability uncertain, and a potential second career start from Titans’ rookie Malik Willis on the horizon, Sunday Night Football realistically will be a near-exclusive battle between Derrick Henry and the Kansas City Chiefs.
With that in consideration, let’s take a look at how Derrick Henry has fared against Kansas City in his career.
Game 1: January 6, 2018; Titans 22, Chiefs 21
I’m sorry for bringing this up, but it’s relevant. The 2017-2018 Wild Card game was the Chiefs’ first introduction to Derrick Henry’s one-of-a-kind running style and power. it did not go well.
The infamous Marcus Mariota self-touchdown game was not only a devastating addition to the Chiefs’ playoff woes of the 2010s. It was also—at that point—a career day for Derick Henry. He had 23 carries for 156 yards and a score and was a primary contributor to the Titans’ 22-21 comeback victory.
Game 2: November 10, 2019; Titans 35, Chiefs 32
Week 10 of K.C’s championship season was an absolute battle. It was the second iteration of what has since become an annual affair between Kansas City and Tennessee, and the Chiefs’ defense remained ill-prepared for Derrick Henry.
Henry logged 23 carries for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Both scores came at crucial points in the game, and one—a 68-yarder featuring multiple broken tackles—gave the Titans the lead late in the third quarter.
We all remember the strength of the Chiefs’ offense that year; a further testament to Derrick Henry’s ability to take over a game.
Game 3: January 19, 2020; Titans 24, Chiefs 35
The Chief’s playoff revenge came in the 2019-2020 AFC Championship game. It was the first time that Kansas City flipped the script on Derrick Henry, and they held him to just 69 yards on 19 carries. Although he still scored a touchdown, his impact did not define the outcome.
Ironically, it was a scramble by Patrick Mahomes that stood out as the primary highlight of the afternoon. At that point in the season—although Mahomes threw for 294 yards and three TDs that day—the Chiefs’ defense had hit a stride and started to take control of games. The Chiefs fell behind early in each game of that playoff run, but the defense adjusted and created the opportunities which we all hold as core memories from the SBLIV run.
Game 4: October 24, 2021; Titans 27, Chiefs 3
By far the worst outing by the Chiefs against the Titans since 2018, and it came at a tough time in the 2021 regular season. Kansas City was off to a tough start last season and this loss to the Titans started a narrative against the Chiefs’ potential for the year.
On one hand, the world was panicked about K.C.’s offensive ability to outscore opponents, and, on the other, the defense held Derrick Henry to a modest 89 yards on 29 carries.
With the revamped personnel on the Chiefs’ D this season, there will be a handful of players seeing Henry for the first time on Sunday night. This group is battle-tested, however, having already faced the likes of Jonathan Taylor, Austin Ekeler, Josh Jacobs, and Christian McCaffrey. History favors Derrick Henry against the Chiefs with an average line of 24/125/1, but this defense may be the best he’s seen from Kansas City and should present him with his toughest challenge yet.