By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Derrick Henry carried the Tennessee Titans into the AFC South lead Sunday.
Now the defending rushing champion wants to finish the job with a division title and another deep playoff run.
Henry battered the NFL’s second-stingiest defense for 140 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, finished with 178 yards and led the Titans to a crucial 45-26 rout at Indianapolis.
The win gives Tennessee (8-3) sole possession of the division lead, a split in the two-game season series and a tie-breaking edge based on current division records of the teams. Henry also padded his lead as he chases a second straight rushing crown.
He has three straight 100-yard games and eight consecutive road games with 100 or more yards, tying former Titans running back Chris Johnson for the second-longest streak since the 1970 merger. Only Hall of Famer Barry Sanders (10 in 1996-97) had a longer streak.
With the Colts (7-4) missing three key starters — Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, starting linebacker Bobby Okereke and defensive end Denico Autry — Henry repeatedly broke tackles or eluded tacklers. He became the second player in franchise history with three straight seasons of 10 or more TD runs, joining Hall of Famer Earl Campbell.
And it didn’t take long for Henry to set the tone. He touched the ball on six of Tennessee’s first 10 plays and capped the opening drive with a 12-yard scoring run.
After the Colts tied the score at 7 with an 11-yard pass from Philip Rivers to Trey Burton, Ryan Tannehill hooked up with A.J. Brown on a 69-yard scoring play. When the Colts tied the score on Jacoby Brissett’s 1-yard TD run, Henry went back to work.
He scored on a 1-yard run midway through the second quarter, added an 11-yard TD run to make it 28-14, and was used as a decoy on Tannehill’s 1-yard TD run that gave Tennessee an insurmountable 35-14 halftime lead.
Titans: Henry was helped by the return of left guard Rodger Saffold III (ankle) and the ability of center Ben Jones and right tackle Dennis Kelly to fight through knee injuries. David Quessenberry became the third left tackle to start for Tennessee. Linebacker Jayon Brown, the Titans leading tackler, missed his first game with a season-ending elbow injury. Defensive backs Kenny Vaccaro and Amani Hooker both were shaken up late.
Colts: In addition to Buckner and Autry, on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and Okereke (ankle), the Colts played without center Ryan Kelly (neck) and running back Jonathan Taylor (COVID-19 list). They also lost left tackle Anthony Castonzo (knee) early in the second quarter. Safety Khari Willis (back and quad) left in the second half. Neither returned.
Titans: Henry finished with 27 carries, his 20th consecutive game with 20 more, the NFL’s second-longest streak since 1948. Emmitt Smith set the record at 23 straight. … Henry is the only player since 2018 to top the 100-yard mark against the Colts — and he’s done it three times. … The Titans rushed for 230 yards and produced a season-high points total. … Brown became the fourth player in franchise — the first since Drew Hill in 1988-89 — with eight TD receptions in consecutive years. He had four catches for 98 yards. Brown also recovered an onside kick and returned it 42 yards for a score.
Colts: Indy allowed more points in the first half than in any full game this season. The previous high was 32 by Cleveland. … Rivers was 24 of 42 with 295 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in his 235th consecutive start. He moved past Eli Manning for No. 10 in league history for most career starts and tied Charles Woodson for No. 9. … The interception ended Rivers’ streak of 199 consecutive throws against Tennessee 295 without a pick. … T.Y. Hilton caught four passes for 81 yards and his first TD this season, becoming the sixth player in Colts history with 9,000 yards from scrimmage and the fourth with 9,000 yards receiving.
Titans: Tennessee hosts Cleveland next Sunday.
Colts: Indy begins a two-game road trip with a stop at Houston next Sunday.
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