Buffalo and Denver are the only teams to keep Henry under 80 rushing yards this season. He had a five-game streak for 100 yards or more before the Broncos limited him to 53 yards on 19 carries in a game the Titans still won, 17-10.
Cincinnati’s running defense wasn’t as strong as it was in 2021, currently allowing for 117.1 rushing yards per game (15th most in the NFL), but DJ Reader missed six games and had a chance to get his feet wet on his return last week, just in time to be 100 percent for the Titans.
“Earlier this year, DJ played the best football of his career — that’s what he said,” Pratt said. “It’s great to only play with a great run stopper. DJ is one of the best nose guards in the league so having him in front of us is huge. Every linebacker in the NFL wants DJ Reader to stand in front of them to feed off of because he keeps blocks off you. It keeps blockages away and gives you the ability to roam free like I did last week.”
Pratt is coming off one of the best games of his NFL career as he had eight tackles and two for losses. Reader didn’t have a single tackle in Sunday’s 37-30 win in Pittsburgh, but sometimes his impact doesn’t show up in his personal stats like the linebackers behind him do.
Reader played a big part in stopping the run in Tennessee last year, finishing that game with six tackles, two tackles for losses and a quarterback hit. Stopping Henry, however, will take a concerted effort.
“I think he’s probably the greatest and he’s just a tough runner,” said linebacker Logan Wilson. “He’s good sideways and there’s really nothing he can’t do as a runner. Then his size sets him apart from most defenders in this league. He is difficult to bring down. You always have to bring more than one hat to the ball.”
Wilson said last year’s matchup “doesn’t really mean much” now, but there are some similarities in the game plan then and now. The Bengals don’t have to do anything out of the ordinary when they all play their part.
The Titans’ physical condition will put Cincinnati’s defenses to the test, just like in this playoff game, but regardless of who’s on the field, the Bengals have confidence in their gang tackling ability.
“That’s something we work on as a team, they work individually as a defense that also runs through their tackle circuit,” Taylor said. “They take great pride in rallying to the ball, tripping the ball carrier, not missing tackles and being on the spot as quickly as possible. I think that’s what makes a great defense and we have a great defense.
Bengals at Titans, 1 p.m., Ch. 7, 12; 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7