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How the Ravens Are Approaching Titans Monster Derrick Henry


Near the end of last Saturday night's wild-card playoff game between the Patriots and Titans, the Ravens' defensive linemen and their coach, Joe Cullen, hopped on their group text chat.

Derrick Henry piled up 182 rushing yards on the Patriots, bulldozing through defenders and running past others. It was as if he was totally unstoppable.

"Me sitting in my hotel, I was like, 'Wow, this dude is on a roll,'" defensive tackle Michael Pierce said.

"It's kind of reminiscent of what you saw his Heisman year at Alabama. The dude is special, we know we have our hands full. Hopefully we can get him out of his rhythm early."

There is no question as to what the Ravens' chief priority on defense is this week. They must stop a 6-foot-3, 247-pound wrecking ball that had 1,540 rushing yards this season – the most in the league.

Henry has been particularly lethal the past two games. He put up 211 yards on 32 carries in the Titans' regular-season finale, putting the team on his back to secure a playoff berth.

With 182 yards against the Patriots, that's 393 yards and 64 carries in back-to-back weeks. Henry has topped 100 rushing yards in six of his last seven games. Those are monster numbers.

What makes Henry so difficult is his combination of size and speed. He runs behind his pads, but if he gets the edge, he can take it to the end zone. He has touchdown runs of 53, 68 and 74 yards this season.

"Obviously, No. 22 [Henry] is about as good as you'll see coming downhill running the ball," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He's very unique. You'd be hard pressed to say who he's like right now."

It's key for Baltimore to keep Henry from getting to the edges of their defense. The Ravens want to let their two monsters inside – Brandon Williams and Pierce – and the linebackers feast. Where Henry is particularly dangerous is when he gets in space against defensive backs, who are simply out-sized.

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who is playing a lot in the slot, said he is getting an extra lift in this week in preparation for having to take on more in the running game.

"I really think it's going to take all 11," Humphrey said. "He's 6-foot-3, and he has really elite speed also. He can run people over here and there all the time, but if he gets to the edge, he can really outrun you."

The Ravens have faced a lot of good tailbacks this year – such as Cleveland's Nick Chubb, Seattle's Chris Carson, Cincinnati's Joe Mixon and more. While Chubb had a huge day in Week 4, the Ravens showed their defensive improvement by holding him to just 45 yards in a Week 16 rematch.

"We've got to stop the run. That doesn't change regardless of who we're playing," said inside linebacker Josh Bynes. "We have to do what we're supposed to do – swarm, get guys to the football."

Ravens safety Earl Thomas III had some thoughts watching that Patriots-Titans game too. And he doesn't think Baltimore will suffer the same fate.

"Guys didn't seem like they were too interested in tackling him," Thomas said. "So, our mindset is a little different."

While the Ravens certainly respect Henry – the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner – they also aren't looking to kowtow to the man Titans fans call "King Henry."

"As a defensive lineman, this is the kind of game you dream about – rough, tough, physical," Pierce said. "Being a playoff game makes it much more gratifying if you get the win."

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