DeMarco Murray

Titans’ Henry looks to build on postseason debut vs Patriots

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Derrick Henry isn’t a big or brash talker. That’s what made the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner calling his performance “kind of soft” in Tennessee’s regular-season finale stand out.

The massive running back sure made up for that with an NFL postseason debut for the record books.

Getting Henry to acknowledge any change in his own confidence or being pleased after a big game is as tough as tackling him in the open field.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

“I’m just trying to play better every week,” Henry said . “I’m going to get another chance to play – it’s a great team in a good environment – so just making sure I’m doing all the right things this week.”

Henry rebounded from a game in which he ran for 51 yards by setting a franchise playoff record with 191 yards from scrimmage, helping the Titans rally for a 22-21 victory over Kansas City in the wild-card round. He topped the previous mark set by Billy Cannon in January 1961 with the best performance by a running back in the playoffs in at least a decade.

Now it’s up to Bill Belichick and the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots (13-3) to slow down Henry on Saturday night in their AFC divisional game. Belichick says everyone on defense has to do his job.

“Henry has got a ton of skill, and he’s got power, good vision,” Belichick said. “He can certainly run inside and break tackles, he’s a tough runner, he can get tough runs. But, he’s very athletic in the open field. He’s fast, he can cut back, he can get to space. He’s broken off a lot of long runs, running plays, screens.”

Against Jacksonville on Dec. 31, Henry made up for a rough day running by taking a screen 66 yards for a touchdown . But his first three carries went backward, including a 12-yard loss that came dangerously close to a safety.

“He saw some of the things that he missed by trying to bounce some things,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “He’s had a lot of success bouncing some runs, but at some point you’ve got to hit some of these holes that are there, and they’re not big all the time. I think he saw that, and obviously he’s a quick, fast learner.”

The second-year running back out of Alabama bounced back with a career-high 156 yards, just shy of Eddie George’s franchise-record 162 in a postseason game.

Henry also had 85 yards in the fourth quarter, including a 35-yard touchdown , for the NFL’s third-best rushing performance in the fourth quarter of a playoff game since the 1991 season. Only LeGarrette Blount (114 yards for the Patriots vs. the Colts on Jan. 11, 2014) and Derek Loville (97 yards for the Broncos against the Jaguars on Dec. 27, 1997) have been better in that span.

Finishing is what the 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry does best. Only the Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt had more yards rushing (474) in the NFL in the fourth quarter this season than Henry (390), who averaged a league-best 6.09 yards per carry over the final 15 minutes.

Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia says Henry is powerful with a dangerous stiff-arm.

“If it’s a one-on-one tackling situation, it’s extremely difficult to get him down in that instance,” Patricia said.

Henry teamed with quarterback Marcus Mariota to pile up a franchise-record 202 yards rushing for a postseason game. The Patriots ranked 31st, allowing 4.7 yards per rushing play.

DeMarco Murray already has been declared out for a third straight game for Tennessee, leaving the backfield to Henry.

“It’s my job trying to help this team win games,” Henry said. “It’s always fun when you’re playing football.”

NOTES: LG Quinton Spain (back) practiced fully after missing the last two days. CB Logan Ryan (ankle) practiced fully after being limited Wednesday.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Follow Teresa M. Walker at http://www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

Titans running back DeMarco Murray will not play vs Pats

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee coach Mike Mularkey says running back DeMarco Murray will not play against the New England Patriots in the AFC divisional round.

Mularkey said Wednesday that Murray is not close enough to play Saturday night in New England.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

The coach had listed Murray as day to day after the Titans (10-7) beat Kansas City in the wild-card round. But Murray has yet to practice, and Mularkey says the veteran running back is close enough to play next week.

Left guard Quinton Spain missed a second straight practice with his back. Mularkey says Spain is doing better.

Mularkey says he gave linebacker Brian Orakpo the day off from practice. Cornerback Logan Ryan (ankle) was limited in his return to practice.

Derrick Henry will start his third straight game at running back.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL.

X-factor: A running Mariota gives Titans another dimension

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie might have been the happiest person at practice watching quarterback Marcus Mariota look like, well, Mariota.

The quarterback brushed aside a safety with a stiff-arm on his way to a big run.

When Mariota is running, the Titans are usually all smiles because their offense shows signs of life.

“That’s what we know he’s capable of doing, and when he’s capable of doing that, it helps our offense again I’ll tell you probably 80 percent,” Robiskie said Wednesday. “I hate to say that, but if he can’t do that or he’s in position that he can’t do that or that don’t happen, we’re not the offense we’re trying to be.”

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

Mariota ran a career-high 10 times for a season-high 60 yards to help the Titans earn their first playoff berth since 2008. Better yet, teammates saw a swagger in Mariota as he got off the ground and stared down a defender to make them confident their quarterback is feeling good, possibly even as he did before a broken right leg ended his 2016 season a game early.

“That’s old Marcus, before the injury,” Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey. “That’s him. This is the Marcus I been waiting to see — him using them legs and making things happen. We need to see that more out of him going forward.”

Titans coach Mike Mularkey loved Mariota’s body language, and now the Titans (9-7) need their quarterback who won the 2014 Heisman Trophy to keep running Saturday when they visit Kansas City (10-6) for an AFC wild-card game.

“We’re at that point right now when every man needs to do whatever he can, whatever it takes, to make this thing go,” Mularkey said. “It was good to see what he did the other night. Obviously, it helped us win the football game. I think it helped him gain a little confidence too that he can do more.”

An NFL quarterback needing a confidence boost sounds unusual, but Mariota’s third season with the Titans has easily been his worst statistically with a career-low 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Mariota has a career-high five TDs rushing, but the quarterback who missed six quarters in October with a strained left hamstring had his lowest average per carry yet at 5.2 yards per attempt.

The Titans dropped from third in the NFL in rushing last season to 15th this season.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid has seen enough of Mariota after the quarterback led a game-winning drive late last season to know they have to be careful when he starts running.

“You don’t ever get tricked by that kind of speed that he has,” Reid said. “When he kicks that thing into overdrive, he can go, so you have to stay very disciplined with him. That will be one of the challenges for my defense.”

Mariota, who converted four first downs with his legs in the fourth quarter of last week’s 15-10 win over the Jaguars , said he just took advantage of how Jacksonville was playing the Titans. Mariota says running came partially from feeling better and simple necessity.

“At this point in time, every guy is probably not going to feel 100 percent,” Mariota said. “It’s just that time of the year. With the magnitude of these games, you’ve got to win these games. You’re going to find a way to make a play and hopefully help your team win.”

Mariota has heard a lot from friends and fans on how he stiff-armed Jaguars safety Barry Church. So does he think he has his “swagger” back just in time for his NFL playoff debut?

“It was just me being me,” Mariota said. “Again, I’m going to do whatever it takes to win. This is the time in the season where you’ve just got to lay it all on the line.”

Notes: Derrick Henry said Wednesday he was not happy at all with his performance last week with 28 carries for 51 yards. He took a screen 66 yards for the Titans’ lone offensive touchdown. But Henry said he didn’t feel like a workhorse back and “kind of felt soft.” Henry says he hasn’t stopped thinking about that game since the game ended and has been working hard to be better. … RB DeMarco Murray (right knee), CB Logan Ryan and S Da'Norris Searcy (illness) and CB Brice McCain (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL.

Follow Teresa M. Walker at http://www.twitter.com/teresamwalker