NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans' 34-31 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday gave them a three-game lead in the AFC South and the best record in the conference. According to ESPN's Football Power Index, the Titans had a 97% chance to win the division as of yesterday.
Then the unthinkable happened.
The Titans received news running back Derrick Henry suffered a severe foot injury, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Henry is scheduled to get an MRI on Monday. The fear is Henry suffered a Jones fracture and may need season-ending surgery on his right foot.
"There's no player in the league that means more to his football team than Derrick Henry," ESPN NFL analyst Rex Ryan said. "This is the biggest loss you can have. It takes them from being in the one or two best teams in the AFC. They ain't going nowhere without him."
The injury occurred in the first quarter. Team trainers looked at his foot, but Henry came back in and finished with 29 carries for 68 yards.
The Titans pulled off a close win over the Colts despite Henry not having the same explosiveness when carrying the football. That was in large part thanks to A.J. Brown's 10 receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown.
Henry fell short of the 100-yard rushing plateau in the last two Titans victories. But continuing to win won't be easy without Henry, whose 937 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns lead the NFL.
Since 2019, the Titans are 18-3 when Henry rushes for 100 or more yards and 8-10 when he doesn't hit that mark.
Derrick Henry has made up for 79.3% of the teams rushing yards so far this season (937 rush yds). https://t.co/dmJ2NCNegZ pic.twitter.com/x4Pox14cBM— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 1, 2021
Brown has caught 25 of the 29 targets from quarterback Ryan Tannehill over the past three games, resulting in 379 yards and two touchdowns.
The Titans' passing game began to heat up as opposing defenses devoted most of their resources to slowing Henry, which generated a lot of one-on-one coverage against the wide receivers. Tennessee repeatedly got big gains by way of the play-action passing game, which is most effective when Henry is in the backfield because of the threat he presents.
Without that threat, teams will be less likely to stack the box and focus more on stopping the passing game.
The Titans don't have many in-house options after placing 2020 third-round pick Darrynton Evans on injured reserve. Jeremy McNichols has been the primary backup for Henry, but he has only seven carries for 38 yards this season.
Here are some possible options for the Titans:
D'Onta Foreman, free agent
Tennessee worked Foreman out last week according to a team source. Although he isn't anywhere near as explosive, at 6-foot-1, 236 pounds, Foreman has the type of frame that matches the Titans' desire to wear teams out with a pounding rushing attack. Foreman had 22 carries for 95 yards in five games for the Titans last season.
Tennessee signed free-agent running back Adrian Peterson on Monday, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Peterson will initially be on the Titans' practice squad and will eventually land on the 53-man roster. Peterson, 36 years old, finished with 156 carries for 604 yards and 7 touchdowns with the Detroit Lions last season.
The veteran back has 14,820 career rushing yards, which is the fifth most all time. Peterson is only 449 yards behind Barry Sanders for fourth place.
Obviously Peterson doesn't have the same explosiveness that Henry had, but his rushing style fits the physical mindset that Titans coach Mike Vrabel wants his offense to use.
Vrabel hinted at possibly using a committee approach in an attempt to still have an effective rushing attack.
"I'm not ready to commit to anything or a wholesale change," Vrabel said on Monday. "A lot of teams rely on multiple backs to run the football within their same scheme."