One of the biggest questions facing the Tennessee Titans heading into this season was how they would allot the carries between their two workhorse running backs.
DeMarco Murray led the AFC in rushing last season, and pretty much dominated the workload as the lead back. Derrick Henry, who was arguably the most complete rookie back in his class, was relegated to catching Murray’s scraps .
A hamstring injury and slow start by Murray, coupled with the emergence of Henry in his second year, led to questions by fans and media alike on who should get the lion’s share of the carries this year.
Offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie may have stumbled upon the best way to utilize both backs in Tennessee’s victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night.
The tandem known as Thunder and Thunder combined for 31 carries, 171 yards, and two touchdowns on the ground (one apiece).
They also chipped in five receptions, averaging 13 yards per catch.
But it wasn’t the numbers themselves that should get Titans fans excited, it was the way they came to those totals.
Murray is the veteran leader. The consummate professional. He is a winner with skins on the wall that has played and excelled in big games throughout his career. He is the better pass-catcher out of the backfield, as well as the better blocker when teams blitz.
Henry is young, strong, and fast. A mountain of a man that runs downhill. The type of back that defenders shy away from tackling late in games. The prototypical closer.
Both backs were used to their best abilities Monday night.
While Murray managed just 40 yards on 12 carries, he lit the Colts’ defense up with timely receptions in the passing game. His four catches tied for second-best on the team last night, and he was able to do damage in the open field after the catch…averaging just under 12 yards per reception.
Henry eclipse the 100 yard mark for the first time in his career, and did so on just 19 carries. He finished with a career-high 131 yards, and his 72 yard touchdown in the closing minute salted away the game.
In the past the backs would rotate out a series at a time, but last night both were used early and often as interchangeable battering rams. Tennessee chipped away at the Colts’ defense with a steady diet of both until they finally broke the defense’s will with the run game.
Both backs scored their tds in the fourth quarter.
Whether it was game planning or happenstance, this is the formula to use going forward.
Murray starts the game, but Henry gets involved early and often….even on the opening drive. Allow Murray to become a bigger focal point in the passing game where he excelled last season, while Henry is the closer.
Just like Monday night.
In all, Henry finished the game with 40 snaps and Murray finished with 38. Both looked fresh late in the game, and the Titans were able to keep two of their best offensive weapons on the field more often than not.
A win for Murray, a win for Henry, and most of all, a winning blueprint for the Titans going forward.