There were many memorable moments that surrounded the Titans’ dominant 42-16 win over the Bills in 2020. It was one of the first NFL games of the season that was impacted by a COVID outbreak, as the Titans had as many as 23 players on the COVID list ahead of the contest.
However, the lasting memory from that contest came from Derrick Henry. Henry posted a season-low 57 rushing yards against a stout Bills defense, but he stiff-armed Josh Norman into oblivion on a carry that, ironically, didn’t even count.
Henry’s stiff-arm was impressive and emblematic of the beat-down the Titans gave the Bills on that Tuesday night. Naturally, as the two AFC contenders meet in Week 6 of the 2021 NFL season, that play has bubbled to the surface once again.
Here’s a look back at the play and the reaction from Henry and Norman in its aftermath.
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Derrick Henry’s stiff-arm on Josh Norman
Henry delivered the stiff arm midway through the first quarter of the Titans’ win. It was one of the most thunderous stiff-arms that the NFL has ever seen. The Titans’ bell cow back sent Bills cornerback Josh Norman flying like a ragdoll on a short first-down run before it was called back due to a penalty.
Below is a look at the epic play.
Henry’s powerful move drew a lot of attention, and seemingly every angle of Norman flying through the air was shared on Twitter.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel had high praise for Henry after his highlight play.
“It was the best 5-yard run I’ve ever seen,” Vrabel said a day after the Bills’ win, per The Nashville Tennessean. “It was amazing.”
Even a year later, the play is still fresh in the minds Bills coach Sean McDermott, the play serves as a reminder of why they need to take their upcoming game against the Titans seriously even after a dominant win over the Chiefs.
“I think we get reminded of it every time we see highlights,” McDermott said when asked about Henry’s stiff-arm, per AL.com. “I see that play, and — look, give them credit. They outperformed us, they outcoached us, they outplayed us. They’re a good football team.”
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Derrick Henry’s reaction to his stiff-arm of Josh Norman
Henry was asked about the stiff arm in the aftermath of the Titans’ win. He jokingly blamed his arm exercise routine for the result of the play.
“I have been doing too many curls,” Henry said, per Sports Illustrated. “I have to lay off the arms.”
After getting that quip out of the way, Henry explained that the move was one that he had been performing for years. As such, his experience doing that gave him an advantage, in his estimation.
“It just came natural to me because I have long arms,” Henry said. “So, that’s the first thing I use to break a tackle or get away from the defender. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid.”
Of course, it also didn’t hurt that Henry had the size advantage on Norman. He is 6-3, 238 pounds while his opponent is 6-0, 190. So, that explains why Henry made the play look so effortless.
Henry reflected on the stiff arm once again in late February. As much as he remembers the play, he remembers the aftermath of it as well.
“After that stiff arm that’s the craziest my phone has ever been,” Henry said, per CBS Sports. “It took about three or four days to respond to every one, that’s how crazy my phone was going off.”
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Josh Norman’s take on Derrick Henry’s stiff-arm
Josh Norman has naturally been asked about the stiff-arm quite a bit since it occurred. He addressed it in an interview on The Dan Patrick Show before the AFC Championship Game and downplayed its significance.
I mean, listen here, when you’re going after the ball, you’re going to get tossed regardless. It’s just something you have a knack for. For me, I don’t look at it from a standpoint of what people say after the fact, I look at it if I’m actually making the play during the fact. Coming back, in two plays we got off the field from plays that we made, so I don’t get too much caught up into that, I really don’t. It’s a laugh, it’s a joke.
We’re in a society now where we like to see the ‘ohhhhs’ and the ‘ahhhhhs’ and the glitzes and glams of the sport, and that’s great, but when you go out there the only thing you’re thinking about is getting to the opponent, and getting the ball from him. I could care less, it was something to laugh about.
Norman also made sure to praise Henry on that show, noting that he joined an exclusive club of NFL running backs via his excellent 2020 campaign.
“Hey, look, respect to the man,” Norman said of Henry. “He has 2,000 yards rushing. Listen, that’s hard to do for anybody. Only eight people did it, and he did. Hats off to him and everything they got going.”
Norman also denied that he had any regrets about stepping in to make that play in another interview a month later.
“I’m not shying away from no one. I want to make that very clear — very, very clear,” Norman said on “The Rush.”
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Where is Josh Norman now?
Norman left the Bills after the 2020 season and remained a free agent until the early stages of the 2021 NFL season. He signed with the 49ers while the team dealt with numerous injuries at the cornerback position, including Jason Verrett’s torn ACL.
So far in 2021, Norman has played in three games for the 49ers. He has logged nine tackles and a pass breakup. He had 24 tackles, four pass defenses and an interception for the Bills last season.