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Vikings Defense Knows Toppling 'King Henry' is Tall Order

EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings defense is entering Sunday's game with an all-hands-on-deck approach.

Literally. It might take all 22 hands to help bring down Derrick Henry on any given play.

With Week 3 approaching, Vikings players and coaches know that everyone on the field will be asked to step up and help bring down the monstrous Titans running back who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds.

"If you let him break the line of scrimmage, it usually takes more than one guy to bring him down because he gets that big body moving," said Andre Patterson, the Vikings Co-Defensive Coordinator and defensive line coach. "The thing we have to do is make sure all hands are on deck, and when he's carrying the ball, all 11 of us have to have a target on him to try and get him on the ground."

Added linebacker Eric Wilson: "I think the biggest [key] is focusing on our job and making sure everybody's in the right spot, in the right position, doing their 1/11th, that we say. Make sure you do your job so the person next to you can have success doing their job."

It's no secret that the Titans want to feed Henry, who has a league-high 56 carries through two games and has rushed for exactly 200 yards. [For context, the Vikings have 40 total rushes for 214 yards as a team after two games].

A second-round pick in 2016, Henry has reached the 1,000-yard mark in each of the past two seasons.

His 2019 campaign was extra special, as he led the NFL with 1,540 rushing yards and tied for the league lead with 16 rushing touchdowns. He then rushed for 446 yards in three playoff games as the Titans reached the AFC title game.

And it's not easy to bring down "King Henry," who ranks second in the league with 2,353 rushing yards after contact and 97 broken tackles since 2016. Additionally, Henry racked up an incredible 968 rushing yards after contact in 2019, which was 86 yards more than the next player (Nick Chubb of Cleveland).

Henry's height and weight combination is greater than any Vikings linebacker currently on the roster (since Anthony Barr is on Injured Reserve).

"I think it's important to make sure you don't try to just hit him and truck stick him," Wilson said. "You have to make sure you wrap up. If he's 20 pounds heavier, that means you have to get some leverage. You have to make sure you're coming to hit him and not just absorb the tackle."

Added Patterson: "He's big, he's powerful, he's strong. And then when he gets into the open field, he does have a second gear of speed. It's going to take all 11 of us to do our job and to get him under control. We'll have to do a great job of tackling. Gang tackling him is the most important thing."

Patterson is spot on about Henry's versatile skill set. While 18 of his 38 career rushing touchdowns have been from the 3-yard line or closer, seven have been 53 yards or longer, including a well-known 99-yard rumble against Jacksonville in Week 14 of the 2018 season.

Through two games, the Vikings are allowing 154.5 rushing yards per game, which ranks 28th in the league.

Minnesota's defense will be in for a tall task on Sunday at home. And it will take a team effort to get the job done.

"He's a good back. A big, physical guy," said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. "What makes it even more difficult with Henry is that he does have the speed to hit the perimeter, but he's got the good side step to slide through the hole as well.

"We're going to have to get more than one hat on him obviously," Zimmer added. "That will be a big key."

Added defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo: "There's no secret at all. We expect more of [an] old-school [style] and them feeding it to Derrick Henry. It's about us stopping them."