All-in Rams rush to welcome Titans without Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry is out and the Los Angeles Rams are all-in.
Those are prevailing storylines for Sunday night’s marquee matchup between the Tennessee Titans and the Rams in Los Angeles.
But Tennessee (6-2), which if the playoffs started this week would be the No. 1 seed in the AFC, might not be whole for the season’s remainder. That’s because Henry underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a broken right foot.
Without Henry, the Titans lose the NFL’s leading rusher with 937 yards. They also lose a guy who has become a better receiver out of the backfield. In sum, the Titans lose a significant chunk of their offensive identity.
“Keep moving,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said when asked how the team proceeds minus Henry. “We have to keep moving forward as a team, as an offense, and find a way to continue to play our football and play good.”
Signing Adrian Peterson, a one-time 2,000-yard rusher and the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 2012 as a member of the Minnesota Vikings, ranks as a low-risk move. The guy who has rushed for 1,000 yards eight times, including as recently as 2018 in Washington, should be fresh after not playing over the season’s first eight weeks.
No matter how quickly Peterson picks up the offense or how Jeremy McNichols might be able to assume a bigger workload in Henry’s place, Tannehill assumes the burden of proof. It will be a change for a guy who’s usually been able to throw when he wants, not when he has to, but he’s eager for the challenge.
“I just love winning football games,” he said. “Whatever it takes to win and give our team the best chance to win, that is what I will do.”
While Tennessee tries to reinvent itself, the Rams (7-1) have imitated Phil Hellmuth and pushed all their chips into the middle of the table. Acquiring Von Miller from Denver on Monday gives them a once-dominant edge rusher to go along with star tackle Aaron Donald.
Miller arrived in town with an ankle injury that caused him to sit out the Broncos’ 17-10 win last week over Washington and could keep him on the sidelines this week. Los Angeles coach Sean McVay vows the team will be smart when assessing Miller’s condition.
“He’s going to do everything in his power to try to play,” McVay said. “But I think there’s an element of let’s take it a day at a time and let’s be smart, let’s get a feel for how he’s doing. But this guy is an elite competitor.”
It’s not like the Rams’ defense has needed Miller’s presence yet. They lead the NFL in sacks (25) and interceptions (11), which more than offsets ranking in the middle of the pack in points allowed.
And the Los Angeles offense usually gives its defense a significant margin for error. Their 30.6 ppg is fifth in the league, just ahead of the Titans’ 28.4 ppg. New quarterback Matthew Stafford is playing some of the best football of his career with a 22-4 touchdown-interception ratio through eight games.
Stafford threw for 305 yards and three scores last week in Houston as the Rams opened a 38-0 third quarter lead on their way to a 38-22 win.
Los Angeles owns an 8-5 lead in the all-time series, winning the teams’ last matchup 27-23 on Christmas Eve in 2017 to clinch the NFC West title in McVay’s first season.
–Field Level Media