1. Win the battle on first down
We originally were going to make the first key to stop Derrick Henry, but that is so obvious and not so easily done that including it as its own portion of this article seemed silly. Instead, we wanted to focus on how the Saints can stop Henry.
The answer is to win on first down. The Titans are ninth in the league in rushing first down percentage, which is attributed to the Titans often getting short third-down attempts because of the team’s success running the ball on first and second down.
Henry averages 4.9 yards per carry on first downs this season and when the distance to the first down is 4-6 yards, he averages 5.9 yards per carry. The Titans’ best gameplan is simple: run the ball on first down, get a second and five and then try and do the same and get the first. If not, chances are that Ryan Tannehill will only need to convert a third and two pass.
To counteract that the Saints need to win early-on in the downs and stop Henry as much as they can on first downs. The defense should not be afraid to send pressure on first downs and if the Saints can turn these second and fives into second and eights then it will have an impact on the rest of the game.
Then, the Titans will be more likely to pass, as if the run gets stuffed again the team will be facing a third and six instead of a potential third and short if the team goes with checkdown passes or slants.
That is where mistakes will be made and where the Saints can capitalize. If they let Henry and the Titans win on first down then it is going to be hard to stop these drives.