In sizing up Derrick Henry, Ravens' Earl Thomas offers sharp critique of Patriots

Kimberley A. Martin
·Senior NFL writer

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Expect the Baltimore Ravens to have a different strategy for stopping Derrick Henry.

Asked about the challenge of containing the Tennessee Titans’ bruising running back in Saturday’s AFC divisional-round game, Ravens safety Earl Thomas said they’ll first start by looking to tackle Henry — unlike the New England Patriots.

“I think [Titans quarterback Ryan] Tannehill threw probably like 17 times last game for like 75 yards in a playoff game and they still won. That’s a credit to how hard he’s running and their o-line,” Thomas said Tuesday, just two days after the Titans upset the defending champion Patriots, 20-13, in their wild-card game at Gillette Stadium.

Tannehill actually completed eight of only 15 passes for 72 yards and a touchdown, and it was Henry who was the star of the show. He ran for a touchdown and 182 yards, the most rushing yards ever allowed by a Bill Belichick defense in the playoffs.

“He’s a cutback runner. He’s very patient. He’ll find creases,” Thomas said, before taking a not-so-subtle jab at Patriots defenders. "And guys didn’t seem like they were too interested in tackling him. I think our mindset is a little different. We’re gonna try to tackle him, try to swarm and we going to see how it plays out.”

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 04: Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) thanks the fans after an AFC Wild Card game between the New England Patriots and the Tennessee Titans on January 4, 2020, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Titans running back Derrick Henry battered the Patriots for 182 rushing yards and a TD in last weekend's upset of New England in the wild-card round. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Henry — who gained 211 yards and three touchdowns against Houston in Week 17 — led the NFL in rushing yards (1,540) during the regular season. And the top-seeded Ravens already know the 6-foot-3, 247-pound back will be looking to run over them too.

“[Stopping Henry is] a big challenge,” Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey said of the fellow Alabama alum. “Seeing him against the Patriots, it looked like he was back at ’Bama when he won the Heisman. It’s going to take all 11. He led the league in yards. Shoot, I mean, he’s been doing his thing. I’m happy for what he’s done, I just hope we can get him to the ground this Saturday.”

Humphrey added with a smile: “I’m going to get an extra lift in this week and see how that works for me. I think it’s really going to take all 11. He’s 6-3 and he has really elite speed also. He can run people over here and there, all the time. But he also has the speed that when he gets to the edge, he can really outrun you.”

So, is Humphrey actually going to spend more time in the weight room this week in preparation of Henry coming to M&T Bank Stadium?

“I’m actually going to get an extra lift in,” he said. “I was actually serious about it.”

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