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Butler’s Titans take control of AFC South by beating Harris, Colts

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Derrick Henry carried the Tennessee Titans into the AFC South lead Sunday.

Now the bruising back can focus on other daunting tasks, like clinching the division title and making another long playoff run.

Henry battered the NFL’s second-stingiest defense by rushing for 178 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Titans to a 45-26 rout at Indianapolis.

“I just had to go out there and get north and south and finish runs and finish forward, get to the end zone,” he said. “Credit to all those guys blocking. A lot of credit goes to them. I just had to go out and do my job and be efficient when I had the ball.”

Don’t mistake Henry’s workmanlike demeanor for the significance of this victory.

Tennessee (8-3) now has sole possession of the division lead over Indy (7-4), a split in the two-game season series and the current tiebreaking edge based on the teams’ division records.

Henry made all the difference in this one. He did the heavy lifting with 27 carries, breaking tackles, eluding defenders and occasionally dragging along those who tried to bring him down.

It was his third consecutive 100-yard game, his seventh this season and his eighth straight on the road, 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.

Henry also became the second player in franchise history with 10 TD runs in three straight seasons, joining Hall of Famer Earl Campbell.

With the Colts defense down three key starters — Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, starting linebacker Bobby Okereke and defensive end Denico Autry — Henry set the tone quickly. He touched the ball six times in Tennessee’s first 10 plays, including a 12-yard run for a 7-0 lead.

“We just we did not execute,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “In big games, it’s about doing the little things right. We didn’t do that. At times, we have done that right in the big games. We didn’t do that today.”

Indy tied the score with an 11-yard pass from Philip Rivers to Trey Burton, but Ryan Tannehill made it 14-7 with a 69-yard scoring pass to A.J. Brown. Indy answered with Jacoby Brissett’s 1-yard TD run, and then Henry went back to work.

The NFL rushing leader scored on a 1-yard run midway through the second quarter, and then added an 11-yard TD run to make it 28-14. He played the perfect decoy to free Tannehill for a 1-yard TD run to give the Titans a 35-14 halftime lead.

Henry had 140 yards rushing at the break, and Indy never recovered.

“We like to establish the run game whether we’re at home or away, and Derrick is consistent,” Tannehill said after going 13 of 22 for 221 yards. “He does his thing no matter where we’re at. He’s a football player, and a really good one at that.”

This was the second meeting between the teams this season, and between two Vicksburg natives. Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler, who played at Vicksburg High, got the best of former St. Aloysius star DeMichael Harris, a rookie wide receiver with the Colts.

Butler finished with four total tackles for the Titans. Harris touched the ball twice for the Colts — one rushing attempt for two yards, and a single pass reception for one yard.