NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans finally got the Derrick Henry train out of the station on Thursday, just in time to improve their playoff chances with a crucial 30-9 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Tennessee's 6-foot-3, 247-pound running back exploded for 238 yards and four touchdowns and the defense shut down the Jaguars, a formula that could make the Titans tough to beat in the cold December games that they'll be playing to close out the season.
"It's cold, and the weather is probably going to be right about what it is today through the rest of December," coach Mike Vrabel said. "It's not easy to throw the football sometimes. To be able to run the ball and set some things up, it goes a long way."
Added quarterback Marcus Mariota: "If you're able to run the football, especially this time of the year, it's going to help you out. When you play good defense, and you got a group that is fearless and that is getting after the passer. ... It's definitely going to help if we can build off of this, use it as momentum."
Henry's 17 carries against the Jaguars were his most since he had 18 in Weeks 2 and 3. Before Thursday, his longest carry went for 16 yards, but against the Jaguars he had three carries of at least 16 yards -- all for touchdowns -- and seven carries of at least 10 yards.
The pedestrian results from the first 12 games frustrated Henry, but he kept pressing forward.
"I just had to look myself in the mirror and overcome it. Continue to work, continue to get better," he said. "I never made an excuse for myself, but just had to keep chopping down wood."
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Henry gained 81 yards after contact on his 99-yard touchdown run, and the physical play that Henry exhibited had an impact on a Jaguars defense that wanted no part of tackling the bruising back. Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson called Henry's performance demoralizing, and Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone questioned his team's effort.
It was an example of how the Titans offense can impose its will by pounding other teams with the running game. The Titans and their fans got a charge from the way Henry was pounding the football against the Jaguars.
"I am happy for the guy because he didn't have the best start of the year," Titans safety Kevin Byard said. "I told him 'they hate you; then they love you.' That guy is a beast. We feed off the energy. Nobody wants to tackle that guy in the third and fourth quarter. We sit there on the sideline like, 'It's third-and-short? Oh, we're about to get this first down.' It's a good feeling to have."
With a 7-6 record, the Titans have a postseason spot in their sights as they prepare for their final road game of the season, against the New York Giants. Vrabel saw how Henry's outburst motivated the rest of the team and plans to give the big back a chance to be more of a contributor going forward.
"I think that Derrick will have all the opportunity to continue to do that and help us in those phases," Vrabel said. "His attitude and his preparation have remained consistent. That was always good to see. We'll try to keep that going. Obviously, we have to try to keep that going. Just [for] the confidence that it [produced] for everybody on the team."