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Marcus Mariota, Derrick Henry the key for Tennessee Titans

By
The Sports Xchange
Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is sacked by Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Vince Williams during the Steelers' 40-17 win on Nov. 16. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is sacked by Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Vince Williams during the Steelers' 40-17 win on Nov. 16. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If the Tennessee Titans are to have any chance at all of upsetting the New England Patriots, it will probably take some formula similar to what worked in Kansas City in the AFC wild-card game.

The Titans defense did yeoman's work (especially after the Chiefs lost tight end Travis Kelce) and will no doubt have to again with a much bigger challenge ahead in Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots' offense.

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But the key might be whether or not the Titans can get the same or better performances from their Heisman Trophy pair in quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back Derrick Henry.

Mariota had a memorable first playoff game, completing 19-of-31 passes for 205 yards and two touchdown passes -- including one to himself on a deflected ball. He also moved the chains with his legs, picking up three critical first downs on scrambles and adding 46 yards on eight rushing attempts.

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As for Henry, he had accused himself of running "soft" in his first start against Jacksonville, where he had only 51 yards on 28 carries. But against the Chiefs, he more than made amends, going for 156 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.

"I'm just trying to play better every week. I get another chance to play against a great team in a good environment. I'm just making sure I'm doing all the right things this week," Henry said.

Mariota's return to form of late, being healthy enough to run again, has caught the attention of his teammates and coaches -- along with his never-say-die attitude, but when asked about his individual play, Mariota says, "Just playing my game, executing to the best of my abilities and just trying to make a play."

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While the Titans' new dynamic duo may be downplaying how much their impact is on the offense's success, teammates are quick to point it out.

"We go as Marcus goes," said wide receiver Eric Decker, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Mariota in the fourth quarter. "He has shown his personality the last couple of weeks and how tough he is, and how much of a leader he is."

As for Henry, his confidence appears higher as well, as he bounced back from the poor game against Jacksonville in his first start and now is one of the focal points of the Titans' offensive attack.

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"Any time you have success, no matter how confident you are, it goes up a little bit. He had a good game, did some good things, and I think he's in a good place," offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie said.

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