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Pats’ D focused on Henry

Boston Herald

January 10. 2018 11:44PM
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) crosses the goal line as a diving Kansas City Chiefs free safety Ron Parker watches Henry score a 35-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Patriots linebacker Marquis Flowers saw what Derrick Henry did to Kansas City during Saturday’s wild card playoff game. He watched how the Tennessee Titans back basically ran over the Chiefs, who wanted no part of dealing with the 6-foot-3, 247-pounder Henry who rumbled for 156 yards.

Flowers’ message to Henry?

Don’t count on seeing unwilling tacklers Saturday night when the Patriots meet the Titans in a divisional round game at Gillette Stadium.

“We’re not the Chiefs. We’re the New England Patriots. It’s a challenge. Anyone who has the ball is going to get tackled,” Flowers said Tuesday. “Obviously, he’s a big back, he’s a good back. As a defense, we take the challenge, we’ve been taking challenges all season. We take pride in it. He’s big. There’s a lot of big backs out there. Welcome to the NFL. It’s going to be fun.”

Flowers said Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Alabama, is not only big, but runs well for his size.

Safety Devin McCourty agreed. Henry is well-rounded. He moves well, but ultimately wears on teams, he’s such a punishing runner.

“Henry you’ve got to be able to defend everywhere. You know, he’s not just a guy because he’s big that he’s going to put his head down and just run straight,” McCourty said. “If everybody crashes inside, he’ll bounce. He has the speed to get around the edge. But I think his numbers are obvious — wherever he is at rushing overall, but then you see the stat where he’s second in the league in fourth-quarter rushing. I think that speaks volumes with him just wearing teams down.”

While the Patriots have struggled to stop the run all season, containing him will be key to shutting down the Titans offense.

“No one wants to get run on,” Flowers said. “In this league, if a team runs on you, they control the game. They’re beating you up. Every week, you go in, you want to stop the run, especially us. We take pride in it. You see what they did last week in a big playoff game. So we know what we gotta do.”

Old friend in town

McCourty admitted it will be strange seeing former teammate Logan Ryan in Titans colors on the opposing sideline.

“Yeah, it will be fun, though. The guy, he’s a brother to a lot of us in there, a real good friend of mine, but there’s nothing I want more than to see him lose Saturday night,” McCourty said of the cornerback, who was also with him at Rutgers. “So, as close as we are, that’s not going to change, and he’s going to compete and be the same way. It will be fun to talk a little trash to each other.”

Mitchell absent

Malcolm Mitchell was missing from the first practice of the week. That puts into question whether the wide receiver will remain on injured reserve or be moved to the 53-man roster.

The second-year receiver from Georgia had been designated to return from the IR list two weeks ago, participating in five practices. But his absence Tuesday, along with a less than enthusiastic response from Belichick didn’t lend optimism.

When it was suggested Mitchell had a long way to go, Belichick said: “Exactly. That’s the way I would characterize it.”

The Pats, however, are expected to get reinforcements. Chris Hogan, who missed seven of the final eight games with a shoulder injury, is expected back. . . .

Former Pats left tackle Matt Light is raffling off two sets of club seats to the game. The grand prize winner will get hotel accommodations and dinner to go along with the tickets.

“I’ll hang out with both winners and have fun at the game,” said Light, as proceeds from the raffle go to the Light Foundation.

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