Derrick Henry's best season begins annually during the week of Nov. 10, and this year, it's better than ever.
Sunday's performance was his least impressive of those four outings statistically, but that's without considering the circumstances surrounding it. The running back ripped off 55 yards and a touchdown on his first 12 carries, then found himself hampered by a hamstring issue, which required him to trot up and down Tennessee's sideline just before half and strap a heat pad to his leg while off the field.
"Yeah, ain't no quittin' in me," Henry said, via The Athletic. "My leg would have to be halfway off for me to stop. So I'm going to go out there and help my team win games, play through it."
Henry's refusal to sit made it his most impressive performance of his prime season. The running back returned to carry the ball six more times for 48 yards, including a key 24-yard rumble on a drive that ended in a decisive touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Jonnu Smith. That run followed an earlier scoring drive that saw Henry plow his way into the end zone from 10 yards out to give Tennessee a 28-21 lead.
"I think the toughness showed by those guys is huge," Tannehill said of Henry and teammate A.J. Brown, who was playing through a calf injury. "I told them on the field during the game how much I appreciated just the way they're fighting through it. You see them in pain, but they're fighting through it, and they continue not only to play, but to make plays and play well.
"It's late in the season. Guys are going to get dinged and banged up. But to see those guys play with not only physical but mental toughness, and go out and grind through for the guys around them, that was huge for us."
This Titans team is gradually becoming its most complete squad since perhaps the glory days of Steve McNair, Eddie George and Derrick Mason. It's a transformation few saw coming, starting with the insertion and ascension of Tannehill, who was a retread at best under center, a veteran backup when brought in during the offseason to play behind Marcus Mariota.
Tannehill's play jump-started the Titans, who have followed suit across the board, thanks to the play of Henry, Brown and young defensive standouts like linebacker Jayon Brown, who returned a fumble for a touchdown Sunday. The Titans go as Henry goes, and if they collectively continue on such a path, it should lead them deep into January.