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Just How They Drew It Up: Inside Titans' TD Run Vs. Jags

Posted at 6:02 PM, Sep 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-23 19:02:43-04

Leading 9-3 in the third quarter of their week two win in Jacksonville, the Titans forced a punt and rookie Adoree' Jackson returned it 46 yards to the Jaguars' 34-yard-line. On the first play of the possession Marcus Mariota hit Delanie Walker for 17 yards, putting Tennessee in the red zone for just the second time on the afternoon, giving it a chance to take complete control of the game. 

What happened next was a play that head coach Mike Mularkey and the Titans' offense had been waiting for all day, and the culmination of countless hours of film study in a tireless week of preparation. 

The Titans, known for their "smash mouth" rushing attack, lined up for the 1st and 10 play at the 17-yard-line with three tight ends, including 321 pound backup offensive tackle Dennis Kelly, a wide receiver split left and Derrick Henry as the lone running back lined up seven yards behind Mariota. 

The Jaguars countered with four down lineman and five other defenders crowding the box. It was a look the Titans were expecting to see. 

"I watch film all week. It's just (a thought that) if they're looking for something, we're going to give them something else," Mularkey said. "It's not a hard play, it's already a play we have. The play was already in, it's just out of a different look."

The handoff to Henry is a basic power run play the Titans run often, but the design of this play was to fool the Jags into thinking they knew what was coming before hitting them some place else with the 248-pound Henry. 

But first, let's back up to week eifht of last season and a 36-22 Titans' victory on Thursday Night Football in Nashville. In that game, the Tennessee rushed for 214 yards and two touchdowns as the duo of Henry and DeMarco Murray continually gashed the Jaguars on the same power play. 

It was watching the success they had that night on film that made Mularkey believe they had the potential for a big play in this game with one slight little adjustment. 

"A lot of it's based on what we've done before against them," Mularkey said. "It's just a look. The same motion, the same set, we ran about eight times against them here (last year) for some pretty successful plays, a couple of touchdowns, and I personally thought if Supernaw does the same thing and instead of running all the way back and running the same play we ran against them, if he stops and runs, we call it, 'a lead open', they're going to think it's coming over here and we're going to hit them over here."

When the Titans line up, Supernaw goes in motion just as the Jaguars had seen many times before. As he stops, and begins to return back across the line of scrimmage all seems normal. 

Mularkey and the Titans' coaches like what they see. 

"I'm thinking we'll have angles," Mularkey said. "A lot of the run game is do you have angles on them and are you in position to block them. Are you putting your guys in the best position to do their job."



As Supernaw continues to motion back down the line of scrimmage Jaguars linebacker Paul Poslouzy moves with him, thinking the play is headed to the strong side of the line of scrimmage as he had seen so many times before on the field and in film. 

But when the ball is snapped with Supernaw in the middle of the line, now serving as a lead blocker for a power run towards the weak side of the formation. With Poslouzny out of position, the Titans are able to account for every defender in the path of the play as left tackle Taylor Lewan and guards Quinton Spain and Josh Kline kick out the linemen and Supernaw and center Ben Jones engage the linebackers, opening the hole for Henry and a potential big play. 

"My eyes always get big, naturally," Henry said. "But I love running the ball and (the offensive line) did a great job of getting all their blocks and I just wanted to do my part."

Henry bursts through the line practically untouched with only a charging safety able to to prevent this from being a big gain. 

"There was one unblocked guy and Derrick stiffed armed him," Mularkey said.

Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama, delivered a Heisman-like stiff arm to Barry Church, discarding the safety easily. As he barreled towards the goal line only the other safety, Jalen Ramsey, stood in his way. 

Henry lowered his shoulder into Ramsey, knocking him over on the way to the end zone for the game's first touchdown. 

"I wanted to make him feel me for sure," Henry said with a smile after the game.

Mularkey was also all smiles after the game because his hunch proved to be a good one. Even in his third stint as a head coach, Mularkey is considered one of the hardest working coaches in the NFL, often burning the candle at both ends studying as much film as he can to try to gain an advantage. 

What he saw on film wasn't in the team's initial offensive gameplan given to Mariota and the quarterbacks on Tuesday and installed throughout the week. Instead, this wrinkle was installed Saturday morning before the team boarded a flight for Jacksonville. 

That meant the Titans never practiced a single rep of the play before Henry took the handoff and darted 17 yards for a touchdown in the game. 

"We knew going in that there were certain plays that we liked," Mariota said. "And if they showed us a certain look, we'd be prepared for it. The coaches did a great job of making that as an adjustment. Give credit to the guys, we didn't have any practice reps at it, but they executed it well."

It was just one play of the 64 offensive snaps the Titans ran in Jacksonville, but it helped turn the tide of the game as a close, low scoring affair turned into a 37-16 romp. 

In a sport where one play can mean the difference between a win or a loss, which can determine whether a team makes the playoffs or not and potentially cost coaches and players their jobs, this was a play that worked out exactly how Mularkey saw it on film and drew it up. 

"We came up with that play, it worked and thank God we got a touchdown," Henry said.