For at least one more week, Ravens should keep the ball in Rice's hands

Ray Rice

Ravens running back Ray Rice picks up a first down in the fourth quarter against the Browns. (Gene Sweeney Jr., MCT / November 4, 2012)

The temptation might be great, but the Ravens have to resist.

Considering that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has played well at home as opposed to poorly on the road, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has to be rethinking the game plan after staying with the run two days ago in a 25-15 win over the Browns in Cleveland.

Somewhere deep in a laboratory over at The Castle in Owings Mills, Cameron is probably squirming like a mad scientist. He is probably poring over equations and pulling his hair out wondering if he should stay with the run, or unchain Flacco in Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium against the Oakland Raiders .

My advice: please keep Flacco under lock and key for at least one more game. And if there is any doubt, watch Oakland's 42-32 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday.

In that game, Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries. Martin is only a rookie, but he looked like a Jim Brown or an O.J. Simpson.

Actually, he plays like Ray Rice. They are about the same height, but Martin is bigger. Both are shifty and can make big plays as either a runner or receiver out of the backfield .

So against Oakland, running Rice is a no-brainer to me.

But almost as important, the Ravens are officially in the second half of the season. They are still searching for an offensive identity, and may have found it against the Browns.

"It can't be a blanket statement," said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh of running the ball. "To me, it's a good point. We need to be able to run the ball — absolutely. That's kind of our identity."

This appears to be the perfect week to continue building on it because the Raiders are allowing nearly 120 yards rushing and are ranked 21st against the run in the NFL.

In theory, Rice should carry the ball at least 20 times and rookie Bernard Pierce should get another 10. They were a good tandem against Cleveland as Rice rushed 25 times for 98 yards and a touchdown and Pierce had seven carries for 26 and a touchdown.

If the Ravens were worried about Rice's durability, they shouldn't any longer. Pierce may have a different running style, but his one cut and push downhill approach is extremely effective.

The Ravens won't win style points by running the ball, but they will win games. This town knows the Ravens want to be in fashion with the rest of the NFL. The Ravens want to be pass happy. They want big numbers for Flacco.

But instead of those things, they should do what is best for the team.

There will be a temptation for the Ravens to unchain Flacco on Sunday. At home, he has been "elite." On the road, he has been just another "Joe"

The Raiders are coming to town with Carson Palmer, and he threw 61 passes against the Buccaneers completing 39 for 414 yards. But he also threw three interceptions.

You can sense the hype now: Carson versus Flacco. The Kid vs the Old Gun.

Don't buy into it. One of the most impressive things to come out of the Browns game Sunday was that the Ravens had the ball for 31 minutes and 32 seconds compared to 28:22 for the Browns.

It doesn't sound like much, but in each of the previous three games the Ravens had the ball nearly 20 minutes less than Kansas City, Houston and Dallas.

At least on Sunday, the Ravens defense had time to rest even though the Browns had 116 yards rushing. Against Palmer, the less your defense is on the field, the better.

Right now, the Ravens offense has no consistency and has struggled since the first game. There are times when the Ravens seem to borrow a page out of the Brian Billick playbook, and that's just to chuck it high and deep downfield and hope a receiver can make a play.

A shootout might be on the Ravens minds this week, but if they want to become serious contenders they have to run the ball. That philosophy should help to keep their suspect defense off the field while developing a mental toughness.

At this point, the Ravens need something. They've got a lot of improvements to make, but now they also have an identity they can build on.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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