The Tennessee Titans are undefeated when RB Derrick Henry hits his magic number of 11 carries. Does QB Marcus Mariota have a magic number also?
The Tennessee Titans offense was dormant throughout the season. A big reason for that had to do with nagging injuries that kept some key playmakers from executing in ways they were accustomed to. Injuries derailed the smoothness and timing of the offense, and limited some of what the Titans offense could, or was willing to, do during the year.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota was a player whose abilities were hampered throughout the season due to trying to overcome hamstring issues, ankle trouble and even some shoulder problems. That’s not the case anymore. According to head coach Mike Mularkey, his signal caller may have finally recovered to his healthiest point all year long.
Mariota’s health is paramount to the success of the team. Plain and simple: he’s the heartbeat of this football team. If he’s going at full speed, this Titans team is tough to stop. The problem is he hasn’t been healthy all year. Fast forward to present day, and he could finally be turning the corner health-wise.
The ability to wreak havoc with his legs is one of the keys to Mariota’s game. His natural ability to run can spark electricity and he can make defenders pay. If Mariota is running, or is even being considered a running threat, the entire offense has more potential for success.
Is Mariota’s Magic Number Six?
Much has been made of the success the Titans have had when their beastly running back, Derrick Henry, carries the football at least 11 times. Tennessee has yet to lose a game when Henry totes the rock at least 11 times.
With RB DeMarco Murray still sidelined with a knee injury, Henry is officially the premier back. This practically guarantees Henry will see double-digit carries.
Mariota also has a winning streak when it comes to running the football a certain amount of times. Dating back to his rookie season, the Titans are 9-0 when Mariota carries the ball a minimum of six times. Five of those wins have come this season.
If the “Heisman Duo of Doom” can each reach the minimum number of carries mentioned above, do the Titans become unbeatable?
The numbers seem to suggest this is the case.
Mobile QBs Problematic for Patriots
New England goes into Saturday night’s game highly favored. However, if the Titans can utilize Mariota’s skills and athleticism as a dual-threat, the mighty Patriots could be in trouble.
Head coach Bill Belichick is a perfectionist, and much of his beliefs are instilled in his players. The primary job–or “Patriot way”–centers around doing your job and maintaining your assignment/responsibility.
The perfect “stick-in-the-spoke” for that? The unpredictability that comes with a dual-threat quarterback. When healthy, Mariota is one of the best in that role.
The three losses New England suffered this season were to teams that had quarterbacks who could move out of danger, buy time with their legs or pick up chunks of yards when the plays broke down.
Kansas City had Alex Smith rhythmically move in the pocket when he needed to, but rookie RB Kareem Hunt did most of the damage on the ground. Carolina had Cam Newton, who used his legs to make key plays that helped the Panthers leave Foxborough with a win. Miami’s Jay Cutler wasn’t razzling and dazzling in the pocket, but he still moved well enough to keep plays alive and find his playmakers downfield.
Remember when blazing hot rookie QB Deshaun Watson nearly walked out of Gillette Stadium with a win? Had it not been for some last-minute play scrambling, the Patriots could have had another blemish on their record this year to a team whose quarterback can move.
The Patriots also could have lost to QB Jamies Winston’s Buccaneers. Winston tries to do most of his damage through the air, but when he has to make plays with his legs, he has proven that he is fully capable.
In the Titans, New England faces a team that could potentially do damage on the ground with their running back and their quarterback. It won’t be a one or the other type scenario. In order to win, the Titans have to run, run and run some more.
Both Mariota and Henry will be keys to the amount of success Tennessee has on the ground. Each of the Heisman Trophy winners helped the team develop a winning mentality. The Titans’ refusal to lose rests on the shoulders of their two budding stars.
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The Titans’ regular season record is not reflective of a losing team, but of a team that struggled with injuries that prevented or influenced the plays that were deemed functional. Both Mariota and Henry are healthy, and in their eyes, the season just began last Saturday at Arrowhead.
Of all the starting running backs that remain, the Titans possess the one with the freshest legs. In the AFC alone, Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell has 321 carries. Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette has 268. Even New England’s Dion Lewis has 180.
Henry sits at 176. He’s built to carry a much larger workload than that. The good news is the “Derrick Henry Show” is now in syndication. In the week the Alabama Alumni’s collegiate squad won the National Championship, Henry grew even more motivated to help his new team win a championship of their own.