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Henry turns in his best game of season in possible finale with Titans

Derrick Henry Derrick Henry - The Canadian Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — If Derrick Henry's career with the Tennessee Titans truly is over, the four-time Pro Bowl running back and two-time NFL rushing champ made his finale a day to remember.

Henry ran for a season-high 153 yards, reeling off an 18-yard touchdown run and a 69-yarder to set up the clinching score to help the Titans beat their oldest division rival 28-20 and cost the Jacksonville Jaguars a second straight AFC South title.

“This is a great way to go out, especially against a division opponent, an opponent that I grew (up) down the street watching and looking at and following as a kid growing up,” Henry said. “So it’s all full circle, which is great to be able to finish with the win and finish with class.”

The Jaguars (9-8) tried to slow down Henry, putting eight and nine defenders near the line of scrimmage.

Henry still averaged 8.1 yards per carry against a team he finally admitted his favorite moment came against in December 2018 when he tied the NFL record with his 99-yard touchdown run.

"Oh, man it says he’s the king," Titans cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting said of how Henry played in the final game under his current contract.

Henry turned 30 on Thursday and finished with his fourth 1,100-yard rushing season. He ran 280 times for 1,167 yards for the Titans (6-11).

On Sunday, Henry added to his lengthy resume:

— His TD run gave him 12 for the fifth season in his career, making Henry the sixth player to do that joining LaDainian Tomlinson, Emmitt Smith, Adrian Peterson, Shaun Alexander and Jim Brown.

— That TD also was the 90th of Henry’s career, tying him with Pro Football Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson and Curtis Martin and moving him into 13th on the NFL’s career list. Henry became the franchise leader with his 41st 100-yard rushing game, passing Earl Campbell (40).

— And he passed Alexander for the most rushing yards by a running back out of Alabama.

As the last member of the offense introduced, Henry received the loudest ovation pregame. Given a microphone after the win, Henry thanked fans for the “greatest eight years of my life" before running off with his last name being chanted loudly.

He and veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill spent a moment together in the tunnel before introductions.

Tannehill lost his starting job to rookie Will Levis when he sprained his right ankle in mid-October, and he started with the rookie dealing with injuries to both feet.

“To see him have the day he had today it was a lot of fun for me as well,” Tannehill said. “I turn my head and he gets through the line of scrimmage without much contact you know there’s a chance at being a big one. And he had a couple of those ... as well as the tough yards.”

Tannehill, who turns 36 in July, will be a free agent in March. So will Henry unless the Titans sign him to an extension or use the franchise tag on him again. They did that in 2020 and agreed to a four-year contract just before the deadline that summer.

Henry sounds eager to test the market and also prove he's not going to be declining simply because he turned 30 in the business that is the NFL. Henry said he'll talk to some players who've been through free agency, talk to members of his team after taking a break.

He also held open the door to returning to the Titans with players loving to spend a career with only one franchise.

Reaching the AFC championship game after the 2019 season and blowing a lead in Kansas City still hurts.

“I want to bring a Super Bowl here really bad,” Henry said. "I mean, that’s I mean, that’s one of my main goals. No matter how I do in a season, just want to bring one here and ... who knows what happens.”