DeMarco Murray hasn’t yet hit his dreaded 30th birthday, but his play has dropped off like many of those who have found themselves on the other side of the milestone.
A year after making his third Pro Bowl and leading the AFC in rushing, Murray can’t seem to get himself in gear. The veteran has 452 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 129 attempts for an average of 3.5 yards per carry, which is 0.1 yards per carry less than his nightmarish lone campaign in Philadelphia in 2015. One needs to only look at Sunday’s close win over the Indianapolis Colts to see Murray’s struggles firsthand.
Murray carried the ball 12 times for nine yards and a touchdown that “you guys probably could have walked in on,” Murray told reporters after the game, per The Tennessean. Through three quarters, the Titans — owners of an offense that is considered smashmouth, and was once exotic — had three yards rushing as a team.
But who cares about numbers? We think they’re fairly important. Murray, not so much.
“Not at all,” Murray said when asked if he’s concerned with his stats. “I’ve done a lot of great individual things in my career, playing in this league, and [winning], that’s why we all play, why we coach. That’s all I’m worried about. I’m not worried about stats. Obviously, you want to play better and obviously you’ve got pride about yourself and things of that nature, but, hey, most importantly, we got the win. We’ll all watch film and … we’ll make corrections and that’s it.”
Murray can polish the entire collection of his trophy case during the offseason, but right now, the perplexing Titans are in the thick of a playoff race. There’s no time to rest on past success when the team’s rushing attack is lifeless when running Murray — and when a better option is already in the stable.
Derrick Henry rushed 10 times in the fourth quarter Sunday for 79 yards. He powered Tennessee’s ground game as the Titans methodically overcame a two-score deficit to take down the Colts. It was again obvious who the better option is at running back.
We’ve been talking about Henry’s expected rise since Week 2. Here’s an article by colleague Kevin Patra with a quote from teammate Wesley Woodyard saying Henry is “like an outside linebacker running the football” after his 92-yard output against Jacksonville. And yet, we’re in Week 13 and still waiting for Henry — whose yards-per-carry average is more than a full yard greater than Murray’s — to receive the lion’s share of carries.
“Some of the things that worked, we kept calling,” Henry said, per The Tennessean. “We had the momentum. It was working. The offensive line did a great job, everybody was doing a good job blocking. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Just keep running it.”
Titans coach Mike Mularkey had no explanation for why runs were working for Henry as opposed to Murray, replying with “no rhyme or reason” when asked. Perhaps after studying the film, he’ll realize it isn’t play design — it’s the player.