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4. There's more than one way to get Ray Rice involved, and good things happen when he is
Given how much money the Ravens gave him in the offseason, Ray Rice has every right to be frustrated with how he has been misused this season. While he is still among the league leaders in yards from scrimmage, Rice is on pace to get his fewest amount of carries since 2009, his first season as a starter, and in turn his lowest rushing output since that season. Every Wednesday, he has to put on his happy face -- it is easy for Rice, who always lights up whenever the red light of a video camera flickers on -- when the Ravens trot him up to the podium, the only moment each week where he is guaranteed to be the center of attention. To his credit, Rice never complains about his workload, at least not publicly.
But since Jim Caldwell started calling the plays last week, it is obvious the Ravens have made it a point to reemphasize the running game. Maybe it would have happened if Cam Cameron was still here. After all, Rice's carries have traditionally picked up in December. But Caldwell showed Sunday that is possible for Rice to remain heavily involved when the Ravens try to pick up the pace with the hurry-up offense that quarterback Joe Flacco is most comfortable in. The Ravens got Rice involved early, and he rushed for 62 yards and caught four passes for 37 yards and a touchdown in the first half. The scoring play was a thing of beauty, with Rice running an angle route out of the backfield, blowing by an overmatched inside linebacker to get open, then cutting through the heart -- or what's left of it -- of the Giants defense for a touchdown. It was a clever way to get Rice the ball in space, something that hasn't happened often since his improbable conversion on that 4th-and-29 play.
Of course, it's easy for me to say all this now, with Rice getting 30 touches and 158 total yards in a lopsided victory. Had the Ravens fallen behind like they did a week ago against the Denver Broncos, I might be complaining about how Rice was underutilized again. But it's no coincidence that the Ravens turned in one of their most efficient offensive performances of the season in a game where they gave Rice one of his biggest workloads of the season. There will be times when Flacco will have to be the center of attention if the Ravens are to make a deep playoff run, but they are at their best when those two take turns sharing the spotlight. Like I said earlier, Rice always seems to light it up when the lights come on.
December 23, 2012