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Number of carries not what's important to Ray Rice

December 20, 2012|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

In games against the Broncos, New England Patriots and Houston Texans, the Ravens fell behind early, forcing them to go away from the running game. Other times, Flacco has found a rhythm and the Ravens have stayed with the pass. Then, there have been times where the Ravens have been forced to abandon the run because it hasn't been effective enough. The Ravens have played seven games this season against run defenses ranked in the top 10 in the NFL.

Still, Jamal Lewis, the franchise's all-time leading rusher who embodied the Ravens' run-first, smash-mouth style for years, said that he thinks Rice should be getting the ball more and he feels that it's "fair" to question whether the organization has strayed too far from a physical style of offense.

"[Former Ravens' coach] Brian Billick did not want to run the football. We were forced to run the football because we couldn't produce at quarterback and we had a great defense so we could get the ball quick," Lewis said. "But I think now, in order to compete these days, you have to be able to throw the football and I think that's what they're sticking with and what they're trying to find with Flacco. But at the same time, if you just play good defense and run the football, you stand a chance to win especially with a productive running back, and I think Ray Rice is that. I think he needs the ball more. Look at [the Minnesota Vikings'] Adrian Peterson. The reason that he is getting the opportunity to go for 2,000 yards is his quarterback situation is not as good."

Lewis spoke out regularly if he didn't feel like he was getting the ball enough and he said that he'd encourage Rice to do the same, even though he acknowledged that may not be in Rice's personality. Rice has actually worked hard to defuse any controversy about his touches, defending Cameron on several occasions and saying since Day 1 of the season that this is Flacco's offense. Really, his only visible display of frustration this season came when the Ravens decided to take a knee late in regulation with the game tied against Washington.

"He's handled it real well. A guy like Ray who has had the success that he's had, when things don't go right, he handles them like a pro," said Leach, one of Rice's closest friends on the team. "The statistics and everything else shows that if he touches the ball a lot, the chances we win are higher. But hey, he's handled it like a pro."

Rice, a New Rochelle, N.Y. native, claims that Sunday's game against the Giants has no extra significance for him. He does remember returning home following the Ravens' AFC championship game loss, which cost them a chance of facing the Giants in the Super Bowl, and hearing about it from New York fans.

But he has far bigger concerns this week. The Ravens have lost three games in a row, their offense has been in a funk for several weeks and their biggest weapon is trying to salvage an uneven season.

"It's not like we are preparing and we are about to pack our bags at the end of December," Rice said. "We are going into playoff football. We have to execute right now and win one to clinch the division, and then go ahead and start going to the playoff field."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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