It had been a perfect formula the last couple of weeks, and on a rainy Sunday it led to a third straight win and the Titans’ first shutout in 18 years.
Bruising halfback Derrick Henry had his second straight big game with a career-high 33 carries for 170 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Tennessee (8-6) kept its late-season playoff push alive and ended the New York Giants’ postseason hopes with a 17-0 victory.
“We’re happy with whatever works and helps us win games,” Henry said of the new dynamic duo. “If that’s it, then we’ll keep on doing it. Whatever gives us the best opportunity to win games, I think we’re going to stick with that. Hats off to the defense, pitching a shutout.”
The shutout was the Titans’ first since a 31-0 win over the Cowboys on Christmas Day in 2000. Over the last two games, the defense has allowed nine points.
Henry, who scored on two 1-yard runs, has been even better. He had a franchise-record 238 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Jacksonville on Dec. 6, and his 408 yards over the past two games is the best in the Titans’ era. Earl Campbell ran for more when the team was the Houston Oilers.
“I think he’s just finding seams and when it comes down to it, there’s only one ball,” said Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was 12-of-20 passing for 88 yards. “We just have to find a way to get it to everybody. Derrick had the opportunity in the past couple of weeks to have more carries, and I think he’s done a great job with it.”
The Titans’ defense limited Saquon Barkley to 31 yards on 14 carries and added three sacks, a third-quarter interception by Kevin Byard that stopped a New York drive inside the red zone with the score 7-0, and a forced fumble that set up Henry’s second TD.
It was the first time New York was blanked since Arizona posted a 23-0 win last Dec. 24.
Eli Manning finished 21 of 44 for 229 yards as New York lost for only the second time in six games since the bye week.
“It wasn’t the type of game that we wanted to play today; we didn’t do enough in all phases to get the job done,” Giants defensive captain Alex Ogletree said. “When you don’t do that, those are the results you get. I thought we played hard, but we didn’t make enough plays.”
The Titans’ offense did, rushing 42 times for 216 yards.
After Ryan Succop missed a 48-yard field goal on the opening series, the Titans got the ball back and went 75 yards in 15 plays with Henry powering in from 1 yard. He seemingly had scored two plays earlier, but a video review determined he was just short.
Linebacker Kamalei Correa forced a Manning fumble in the third quarter that Jurrell Casey recovered at the 14. New York seemed to have the Titans stopped at its 3 on third down, but a facemask penalty on a sack of Mariota gave them first-and-goal.
Succop added a 22-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
The Giants have now missed the playoffs two straight year and have made it once since the 2012 season (2016).
“It hurts. Obviously you want to make the playoffs,” Manning said. “We didn’t play well enough early in the year to put ourselves in a good position. I knew we still had a chance if we won out, but we didn’t play well enough today to do that.”