Extra-long-gain Rice

2nd-year Ball Carrier Evokes Memories Of Detroit's Sanders

Ravens Gameday

December 14, 2009|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray , ken.murray@baltsun.com

On a dreary, rain-soaked afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium, Ray Rice, the mightiest of the Ravens' mighty men, gave his best Barry Sanders imitation yet.

Rice gashed Sanders' former team, the Detroit Lions, for a pair of 50-plus-yard runs, a 30-yard catch and all kinds of torture in the most lopsided game of the Ravens' season.

The second-year running back had 204 yards from scrimmage by halftime - the fourth-best half in the NFL since 1991 - and his wizardry sent the Ravens toward a 48-3 romp that pronounced them back in the playoff hunt.

"He reminds me of a lot of guys," teammate Ray Lewis said, "but the way he spins out of tackles, the one guy we saw come through here years ago was Barry Sanders. He had that type of ability. Those guys are built to where all their power is in their legs. ... He's so low to the ground, he really reminds you of Barry Sanders. With his quickness, he reminds you of Eric Metcalf. He springs like a cat, and he has a heart like a lion."

Like Sanders before him, Rice was beyond elusive when he got the ball. He bolted 52 yards the first time he touched it Sunday. He went 59 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter on the same play, the 70 power. That's the play in which right guard Marshal Yanda pulls and leads the running back inside the left tackle - in this case, Michael Oher.

"Exact same play," Rice said. "When a play has a good feel, you get back to it. We kept it real simple. You don't have to do much, just execute."

Rice played only one series into the second half. He finished with 166 rushing yards and 53 receiving yards for a total of 219 scrimmage yards - averaging 12.8 yards per rush and 12.9 per touch. He also fumbled at the Detroit 6 on the Ravens' first offensive series, the second straight week he coughed up a red-zone turnover.

It did not keep him down, as coach John Harbaugh observed later.

"We thought it was important to handle the [weather] conditions and to beat the conditions, but the conditions beat us on the first drive," Harbaugh said. "But that guy right there [Rice] bounced right back, and the rest of our offense and defense ... bounced back and played through to the end."

Rice did not have another bad play the rest of the day. His first 1,000-yard rushing season - he now has 1,041 yards - was christened behind a line that was without left tackle Jared Gaither (foot) but still set single-game team records with 548 total yards and five rushing touchdowns.

"That, right there, just shows that it's 'next man up,' but for us, we have guys like Michael [Oher] who can move from right to left," Rice said. "Not many guys can do that. I haven't seen it done. ... Mike moving from right to left, we didn't miss a beat."

Not only that, but second-year tackle Oniel Cousins - inactive all season - made his first start at right tackle and performed admirably.

"The key to winning is preparing during the week," left guard Ben Grubbs said. "We know if we want to win, the offensive line has to play well."

There was plenty of that to spread around. Willis McGahee (76 rush yards) waltzed through the Lions for a 19-yard touchdown, and Le'Ron McClain powered for 32 yards, including a 20-yard run. Big plays were waiting to be had.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron "had a great plan and up front we did our job, covered guys up, and that's what we want," center Matt Birk said. "We want to get guys like Ray and Willis and Le'Ron ... to the second level. That's where they can turn 5- or 10-yard gains into huge gains, and that's what they did today."

It involved a less-than-inspiring effort from the Lions' defense, too.

Rice "earned everything he got today," Detroit free safety Louis Delmas said.

Lions strong safety Marvin White had a different tack.

"We wanted to try to take [Rice] out of the game, but a lot of his big runs came out of missed tackling," White said. "It was nothing he really did. It's more about what we did."

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