Derrick Henry focused on helping Titans win, not reaching 1,000 rushing yards

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry runs for a touchdown during his team's 30-9 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 6 in Nashville. Henry rushed for a franchise-record 238 yards that day and ran for 170 more yards in this past Sunday's road win against the New York Giants to keep the Titans in the playoff hunt.

NASHVILLE - Unthinkable at the start of December, Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry has put together the best two-game stretch of running in franchise history to move himself within 118 yards of the first 1,000-yard rushing season in his three-year NFL career.

It's still not a number the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Alabama is pondering.

"I'm not focused on that," Henry said Wednesday. "I'm focused on us getting this (win Saturday against the Washington Redskins) and us finishing off the week right, going in there prepared and executing the plan, and whatever happens, happens.

"And I don't really focus on 1,000 yards. As long as we get this win, that's what I'll be happy with."

The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry has turned around not just his season but cemented his spot on the roster. Rumors swirled that the Titans tried to trade him away at the deadline earlier this fall, and Henry lost his starting spot to veteran Dion Lewis in November.

Then Henry, who had been running much better since Tennessee's open date at the end of October, turned in a game for the record books on Dec. 6.

Henry tied Tony Dorsett's NFL record with a 99-yard touchdown run and finished with a franchise-record 238 yards on 17 carries and scored four touchdowns in a 30-9 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars. That got Henry back in the starting lineup, and he ran a career-high 33 times for 170 yards and two scores in a 17-0 shutout of the New York Giants this past Sunday.

His 408 yards combined over the two games are the best in team history, topping the 405 yards Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell managed for the Houston Oilers in October 1980. Nobody had ever run for six touchdowns over two games for this franchise before Henry.

Offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur said he knows Henry was a little frustrated earlier this season.

So what changed? Better blocking and play all around, especially by Henry.

"I just think he's running with a purpose, running with an attitude, a mindset, a mentality that I'm not going down," LaFleur said.

Three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan said it's cool to be part of record-setting performances.

"He finds the holes, and he makes those extra guys miss," Lewan said. "You can't block them all on every single play. As much as we'd like to take credit, that's him."

Now Henry can run for just 59 yards in each of the next two games to reach 1,000 yards for the season, and he gets his first chance as the Redskins (7-7) visit the Titans (8-6) this weekend. Washington has allowed at least 130 yards on the ground in each of its past five games.

Henry is very familiar with Washington's defensive line, having won championships with defensive end Jonathan Allen and rookie nose tackle Daron Payne at Alabama. But the running back, so critical of his own play early this season, insists he's not worried about reaching the milestone as long as the Titans win and keep their postseason chase alive.

"For me to be doing this stuff, you have to look at what's happening around me," Henry said. "That's why I always say 'team,' because for me to have success and make big plays, everybody looks at what's going on around me, and those guys are doing their job. I'm just going out there trying to do mine."

First-year Titans coach Mike Vrabel called Henry the type of leader who works to improve what he is doing, which has carried over.

"Happy for his success," Vrabel said, "and hope we can get him as many yards as we can get him."

Five Titans did not practice Wednesday: Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (knee), linebackers Sharif Finch (left shoulder), Brian Orakpo (elbow) and Wesley Woodyard (back) and wide receiver Tajae Sharpe (ankle). Starting quarterback Marcus Mariota (foot) and safety Kenny Vaccaro (concussion protocol) practiced fully.