Notes: Ray Rice has an active role in the Ravens' offense

Pollard plays through rib contusion

September 24, 2012|By Aaron Wilson | The Baltimore Sun

Instead of essentially abandoning the running game like they did a week ago during the second half of a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Ravens found a way to make Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice a vital part of the offense on Sunday night.

During the Ravens' dramatic 31-30 win over the New England Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium, Rice ran for a 7-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Giving the football to Rice continues to be an effective strategy for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who didn't call the all-purpose threat's number often during the second half against Philadelphia. Cameron had drawn criticism for not calling Rice's number in any of the Ravens' short-yardage situations against the Eagles.

Rice rushed for a game-high 101 yards on 20 carries, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Rice also contributed five receptions for 49 yards.

"It felt good to get the running game going," Rice said. "The run set up the pass. They were in a lot of Cover 2 and we knew they were going to do that. Joe Flacco really picked that defense apart, but we also ran the ball really well.

"I didn't want to get in a scoring match with them, but when they got ahead we never hung our heads, we just continued to battle and I was enjoying the back and forth. It was a heavyweight fight."

The Patriots entered the game with the second-ranked defense in the NFL, but allowed 121 rushing yards to Baltimore.

"That defense over there is a great defense," Rice said. "They don't get much credit because they have Tom Brady. They've got to two great pass rushers. [Vince] Wilfork is a beast and they've got great linebackers. It was a slugfest."

Just as the Ravens were building some momentum with Rice, though, rookie running back Bernard Pierce was brought into the game in the fourth quarter and was stuffed in the backfield short of the first down.

"How surprised was I about fourth-and-one?" Rice said. "We won the game. That's all that matters. Bernard Pierce is 230 pounds. I'm 210 pounds. So, the moral of the story is we won the game."

Tucker makes game-winner

Unlike the chip shot that former Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff sailed wide left in the AFC championship game, rookie kicker Justin Tucker connected on his short field goal to beat the New England Patriots.

Tucker narrowly made a 27-yard field goal with two seconds remaining, a game-winning kick as the Ravens defeated the Patriots, 31-30, Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

"It was pretty cool," Tucker said. "It may not have sunk in yet. Hopefully, this is one of many. I relish the opportunity. It's fun. I'm excited."

The kick almost traveled too far to the right, but the former University of Texas standout got the job done.

"Bottom line is it went in," Tucker said. "That's all I care about. It went in."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick called a timeout to try to freeze Tucker, who made the kick routinely as the whistle blew.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked if he was concerned if the kick wouldn't have gone through the uprights.

"If I was, I would not admit it," Harbaugh said. "The first one did look a little more clean, I will say."

Tucker acknowledged that the kick did carry some extra emotions for him as he dealt with the higher stakes of the situation.

"I try to make it feel the same, but, at the same time, you can't help it," Tucker said. "There's a lot of emotion. There's a lot of history between these two teams. It's just one of those things that you accept, and you've really just got to embrace it and embrace it in the moment."

Tucker unseated Cundiff, a former Pro Bowl kicker, with a superior preseason.

He's now made the first seven kicks of his NFL career, and he's been earning his teammates' confidence.

"I was already sending my farewells," running back Ray Rice said. "I've seen him make those kicks in practice all the time."

Long snapper Morgan Cox was impressed by Tucker's poise.

"I'm really happy for him," Cox said. "It's a summation of all the hard work we put in. Lead him the right way and keep him focused and grounded."

Tucker has a certain swagger, particularly for a kicker, which resonates with his teammates in the locker room.

"Tucker's money, man," strong safety Bernard Pollard siad. "Tucker's different from every other kicker. The dude has character. He's loud, he's having fun, and we're enjoying him. He's a character and he belongs in this locker room." 

Upshaw starts

Rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw started his second consecutive game. Starting ahead of Paul Kruger, Upshaw registered three tackles with one for a loss.

Kruger substituted for Upshaw and wound up with three tackles, including one for a loss.

Using a platoon system didn't create much of a pass rush, though, for Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees against his old team.

By the fourth quarter, the Ravens had only one sack and three hits on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

The sack was by Dannell Ellerbe, who charged into the Patriots' backfield on an inside linebacker blitz.

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