Derrick Henry has been one of the best running backs in the NFL for years. Week after week, year after year, he punishes any player or team attempting to stop him. He has eclipsed the elusive 2,000 rushing yards mark and has been the backbone of the Tennessee offense for years. Stopping him is quite difficult, but the Buccaneers did.
On Sunday, the Bucs bested the Tennessee Titans and stymied Henry all day. He carried the ball 11 times for just 24 yards and had one reception for minus-4 yards. In the first and fourth quarters combined, Henry rushed for minus-6 rushing yards. Half of his touches resulted in negative yardage.
This was always part of the game plan for the Bucs.
“We knew if they stayed downhill and got Henry rolling it was going to be a long day for us,” Todd Bowles said.
The Buccaneers’ front seven were all playing at a high level on Sunday. Contributions from both rookies and veterans led to this erasure of Henry.
The Bucs made ten tackles-for-loss against the Titans, four were sacks, which means Henry was dropped behind the line of scrimmage six times.
Rookies Calijah Kancey and Yaya Diaby each had two TFLs and veteran linebacker Lavonte David also had two TFLs. Other contributors included Devin White, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Shaq Barrett, and Vita Vea.
The rookies being the most effective against the run this game is something that the Bucs needed.
Bowles said Diaby is the strongest outside linebacker on the team and said he is good against the run. He said that Kancey is just scratching the surface of what he can do.
Kancey recorded multiple TFLs in consecutive games, the first rookie to do so since 2021.
Buccaneers get back to what they do best
This Buccaneers team is familiar with stout run defenses. In terms of total rush yards allowed, the Bucs rank 6th, and in terms of yards per carry, they rank 7th.
This aggressive style of defense has been absent for the Bucs at times this year, and this game shows that should not be the case. Bowles, generally known as an aggressive defensive playcaller, spoke about returning to that identity.
“We were probably more aggressive today like we were all year like we used to be, just getting back to the basics and doing the things that we do well and playing fast football,” Bowles said.
Playing fast football is the true mark of a Bowles defense, and it is easy to tell when that is and is not happening. Luckily for the Bucs, it happened against the Titans.