NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Among a packed house of more than 69,000, fans chanted Derrick Henry's name as the Tennessee Titans running back made his way towards the tunnel to the locker room after his 143-yard, three-touchdown performance that helped power his team to a 34-31 win over the Buffalo Bills.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel greeted his players with hugs and high fives as they filed into the locker room.
The jubilation after a much-needed win was abundant. But given how the Titans (4-2) have a short week to prepare for their next opponent after playing Monday, there isn't much time to rejoice.
"Tonight, we're as high as we can be," Vrabel said after the game. "We're going to have to come back down to earth real quick, get ready for the Kansas City Chiefs, what they offer, find a way to prepare to win, get healthy and find out who's available. We're going to enjoy this. In 24 hours or less than that, we'll have to be moving on real quickly."
The Titans' win over the Bills (4-2) was the first of a rugged five-game stretch against tough opponents, with the next test being at home against the reigning AFC champs in the Chiefs (3-3), followed by road games against the Indianapolis Colts (2-4) and Los Angeles Rams (5-1) before returning home to face the New Orleans Saints (3-2).
Henry isn't concerned about the daunting part of the schedule.
Why should he be?
Henry is on a ferocious tear, having compiled five consecutive games of more than 100 rushing yards. He leads the NFL with 783 rushing yards and has already scored 10 touchdowns, tying him with Priest Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson for the second most rushing touchdowns through six games.
"We don’t want to get too caught up in the stretch that we have," Henry said. "I don’t think we get too caught into that because that is rat poison. We take it week by week, enjoy this 'W,' watch this film and see how we can improve going into the next game."
Henry should like what he sees when he studies Kansas City's rushing defense this week. The Chiefs come to town having surrendered nine rushing touchdowns (30th) this season and are giving up 5.2 yards per carry (3oth).
Vrabel said the Chiefs' defense is going to be "geared up and ready to stop" the Titans. All of the attention on stopping Henry should open up the passing game, leading to a more balanced offense.
That's what it did for the Titans in their win over the Bills. Offensive coordinator Todd Downing called 31 passing plays and 20 rushing plays on Monday. The offense didn't pick up any momentum until Henry's 76-yard touchdown run on the Titans' third drive against Buffalo.
"We started to run the football well," Ryan Tannehill said on Monday. "We hit some play-actions, we were able to make some plays."
Tannehill didn't fill up the box score -- he was 18 of 29 passing for 216 yards, no touchdowns and one interception -- but he came through when his team needed a big completion.
Downing dialed up play-action passes to take advantage of single coverage against the receivers, especially A.J. Brown. Brown finished with seven receptions for 91 yards against Buffalo. Four of his seven receptions came off of play action.
The Titans will need a similarly balanced, high-scoring attack this week. Vrabel referred to Kansas City as one of the best teams in the AFC, pointing to how the Chiefs' offense is so explosive. Slowing down quarterback Patrick Mahomes along with his top targets, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, won't be easy.
Mahomes' 18 touchdown passes are the most in the NFL. He has also completed five passes of 40 yards or more, which ties him for the third most in the NFL. Big passing plays have plagued the Titans' defense this season. Tennessee's five passes of 40 or more yards allowed through six games is the third most in the league.
Having a banged-up secondary makes matters even worse. The Titans placed starting cornerback Kristian Fulton (hamstring) on injured reserve before Monday's game.
Fulton going on injured reserve cleared the way for 2021 first-round pick Caleb Farley to get the start. But Farley played just 26 snaps before tearing his ACL in the second quarter.
Chris Jackson was the next in line, but he was in and out of the lineup because of a foot injury. When Jackson was out, Breon Borders stepped in.
"It's tough to see guys go down," Titans safety Kevin Byard said. "You know the way this league goes, next man up."
According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Titans have an 80% chance to win the AFC South division title, and during their current tough stretch of games, they can build their lead in the division if they can knock off the Colts (Week 8) for a second time this season. Tennessee also has a 5.2% chance to make it to the Super Bowl.
The Titans also have the third-easiest remaining strength of schedule, according to ESPN analyst Mike Clay.
Entering this season, Tennessee had the 13th-toughest schedule in terms of their opponent's win percentage (.507), but regardless, Vrabel feels his team is up for the task every week.
"We feel like we can beat anybody in the league," Vrabel said. "I don’t circle any games. They are all in the same color. Some are on the road, some are at home, some are on Monday night, some are on Sunday, some are on Thursdays."