Ravens usually win when Ray Rice gets 20 touches

October 17, 2011|By Matt Vensel

This offseason the Ravens made needed changes on offense in terms of personnel and philosophy, replacing wide receiver Derrick Mason and tight end Todd Heap with young, sleeker, faster alternatives in order to stretch the field vertically with the passing attack. But they kept one key chapter in their playbook: The part about getting the football into the hands of Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice often and by any means necessary.

Ray Rice has averaged 22 touches per game this season, which is funny because in our weekly gameday chat that I do with Kevin Van Valkenburg, Kevin asked our chat-goers whether Rice would touch the ball more than 22 times against the Houston Texans. Rice rushed for 101 yards on 23 carries and added five catches in the win.

Here’s an interesting stat: Since the start of the 2010 season, the Ravens are 3-4 in games in which Rice got fewer than 20 touches (I’m throwing out their one win against the Pittsburgh Steelers last season because Rice was hobbled and Willis McGahee got more carries). They are 13-2 when Rice hits the 20-touch mark.

These stats back up something we all already knew: The Ravens are better off when Rice is heavily involved. That doesn’t mean the Ravens have to strap on their leather helmets and bust out the single-wing offense. Balance is the key here, as we saw in the game-sealing drive against the Texans defense on Sunday evening.

After a four-yard run by Ricky Williams, the Ravens threw play-action passes to Anquan Boldin and Ed Dickson. Rice rushed for seven yards then 27 on his next two carries and Williams capped off the drive -- and the game -- with a four-yard touchdown run. It was the kind of finishing touch the Ravens lacked at times in 2010.

“Our biggest asset today was sticking with the run. We didn’t get down on ourselves [after the first half]. We made, I would say, one minor adjustment -- outside zone [blocking] to a tighter trap, the inside zone,” Rice said after the game, adding, “The greatest feeling for me today was to see Ricky Williams get a touchdown.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh credited those young, sleeker, faster receivers for tiring out the defense, too.

“What you want to do is to wear people out early, and then you want to run them over late,” he said. “That’s kind of the philosophy that we have. It’s easier said than done, but that’s why it’s hard to come out just running the ball down people’s throat early in the game because they’re fresh and the defense is flying around.”

The Ravens will tinker with their passing attack as the season progresses in the hopes that they will get it to the point where they will be capable of winning a shootout against the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills or San Diego Chargers if they meet in the postseason. They shouldn’t stray too far from Rice, though.

Even if they’re not shoving the ball into his belly 20 times, they have to get it into his able hands somehow.

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