The Tennessee Titans have made no secret of the fact the intend to run the football in 2016, and the San Diego Chargers found out first hand how much they can run the football on Saturday night in the preseason opener for both teams at Nissan Stadium.
The first half was dominated by the two-headed monsters of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry who combined for 167 yards on just 16 carries with two touchdowns as each back crossed the goal line in the first half to stake the Titans to a 17-10 advantage at the intermission.
While preseason games are often boring, the first half dominance of the Titans running game was anything but for the estimated 60,000 plus fans in attendance.
Following a Melvin Gordon 44 yard touchdown reception from Phillip Rivers that gave the Chargers their only lead of the night, it was Murray who electrified the crowd and regained the lead that would never be relinquished when he broke away for a 71 yard touchdown run down the San Diego sideline to give the Titans a 10-7 advantage.
Murray spoke about his performance following the game.
"I think tonight we made a lot of good plays, but there are still obviously a lot of work that needs to be done on both sides of the ball," said Murray. "I saw Delanie (Walker) and the offensive line, they made great blocks on the power and the biggest block was by DGB. He made a great block on the corner back outside. When you have big runs like that, it's usually 11 guys working together."
Murray finished his night with 6 carries for 93 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
His backfield mate Henry also excited the crowd who were waiting to see the reigning Heisman Trophy winner for the first time in a Titans game uniform.
Once in the game in the second quarter, Henry was off and running as his first three carries of the game gained, 6, 16 and 15 yards on the way to 10 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown, all in the second quarter.
Henry spoke of his first preseason game and his thought that he still has work to do to get ready for the season.
"I feel pretty good. There's still some stuff I can learn from this game, but I feel good about the offense and how we did today," said Henry. "That's how we want it to look. He did a great job. It starts with the o-line. They took pride and really did a good job for us to have the holes we had today."
Head coach Mike Mularkey was satisfied with his running game, but praised his much maligned offensive line for paving the way for a powerful first half for the two star backs.
"It's a nice start for our team and it was good to get out and get in front of our fans and work against someone else," said Mulkarkey. "It's been a couple weeks that we've been banging on each other so it's fun to get out and play a real game, or at least as close to a game as we could,"
"I'd love to see that all season, that's what they're capable of doing and obviously right out of the games they (Murray and Henry) had a really good night," Mularkey said.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota was overshadowed by the running of his backfield mates, but his stat line was equally impressive as he would finihs his night 5 of 5 for 45 yards and a 104.2 quarterback rating.
However, Murray and Henry were the first ones he spoke about following the game, but then he quickly reminded everyone of the contributions of the offensive line.
"They did a great job, but his starts up front. They did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage, giving us time to throw the ball in the passing game," said Mariota. "If we can run the ball like that, it will make our job easier throwing the ball down the field."
While the majority of the running damage was done by the Titans in the first half, the second half had its own long scoring run.
Relegated to the bottom of the depth chart so far this training camp, former second round pick Bishop Sankey finaly got his chance to shine and did not disappoint.
With 10:45 remaining in the game and the Titans leading 20-10, it was Sankey who broke free down the home sidelines for a 41 yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach and give the Titans their first win of the preseason.
Mariota and his teammates will face a stiffer test in one week when the defending NFC Champions Carolina Panthers visit Nissan Stadium for a 2 p.m. afternoon kickoff.