By Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun
9:13 PM EST, December 29, 2013
— The quiet season of Ravens running back Ray Rice reached another low point Sunday when he stood on the sideline for nearly the entire first half.
Rice was replaced in the backfield by reserve running backs Bernard Pierce and Bernard Scott after the Ravens' opening drive. Rice opened the game with one carry for 1-yard, but didn't get back in the game until the Ravens' final drive of the first half.
Both Rice and Ravens coach John Harbaugh attributed the reduction in playing time to strategy, not because of Rice's nagging quadriceps injury.
"That was a decision really with the offensive coaches," Harbaugh said. "When we were backed up, we didn't want to put him in those backed-up situations. We didn't feel the need to do that."
Although Rice got more involved in the second half of the Ravens' season-ending 34-17 loss at Paul Brown Stadium by scoring a game-tying two-point conversion in the third quarter, he ended the game with six runs for 15 yards and seven catches for 35 yards.
"I was ready to go," Rice said. "There was a lot of situational football. We were backed up and we had to put the guys in that gave us a chance to get out. I was fully ready to go. I had the legs warmed up. I was like a little jitterbug. I could get up and go.
"When you have muscular deals, you can't crank it up right away. We thought both Bernards gave us a shot to get out of situational football. In the second half, I went out there. I was ready."
There weren't many moments for Rice to celebrate this season as he dealt with a strained left hip flexor for much of the season. He rushed for only 660 yards and averaged 3.1 yards per carry, his lowest totals since becoming a full-time starter in 2009.
"I'm not used to an early offseason," Rice said. "I'm looking forward to getting healthy and taking care of my body. I battled through some things this year. I had to learn to fight through some things. It will be different this time, taking care of the body, getting back to some things I'm used to doing."
Pitta's best game
Tight end Dennis Pitta was heavily involved in his fourth and final game of the season since returning from a hip injury.
Pitta caught a season-high eight passes for 63 yards as he was targeted 11 times.
This was Pitta's most active game lining up as traditional tight end instead of split out in the slot since returning from a fractured, dislocated hip suffered in July.
Pitta wasn't available for interviews afterward as he was in the training room getting a minor cut stitched up.
During the first quarter, rookie free safety Matt Elam was unable to match the speed of Bengals Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green.
Elam didn't react quickly enough as Green accelerated past him for a 53-yard touchdown. It was the 17th pass of 40 yards or more allowed by the Ravens, the highest total in the NFL.
Tucker breaks records
Pro Bowl kicker Justin Tucker capped his prolific season by breaking two of Matt Stover's franchise records.
Tucker finished the season with 38 field goals, surpassing Stover's single-season record of 35 field goals during the 2000 season. He also scored 140 points, breaking Stover's single-season mark of 135 points in 2000.
Not making the playoffs was Tucker's focus afterward.
"Of course, you're going to be disappointed, but I think this team has a lot to be proud of," said Tucker, who missed just three kicks all season. "Each individual has had good moments, some great ones. It's about building some momentum, which we may have struggled with. I couldn't be more proud to be a part of this organization."
T. Smith falls short
Wide receiver Torrey Smith was bottled up by the Bengals' cornerbacks, limited to just three receptions for 27 yards despite being targeted seven times.
Smith's longest catch was 14 yards with one long pass defended well by the Bengals in double coverage.
Smith finished the season with a career-high 65 receptions for 1,128 yards, falling short of Michael Jackson's single-season franchise record with 1,201 receiving yards during the 1996 season.
The Ravens were unable to capitalize on four interceptions by quarterback Andy Dalton, going 1 for 4 in the red zone.
The Ravens entered Sunday ranked 30th in red-zone offense.
"That's why we're at this point," Torrey Smith said. "If you can't score with four turnovers, you're in trouble. That's been our Achilles' heel for a while: field goals instead of touchdowns. It's only a matter of time before that comes back to bite you in the NFL."
Wide receiver Marlon Brown caught his seventh touchdown, tying Torrey Smith (2011) for the most by a rookie in franchise history. … Rice became the Ravens' all-time leader in yards from scrimmage, passing Jamal Lewis' record of 9,166 yards. … The Ravens scratched cornerback Asa Jackson (hamstring), safety Omar Brown, center Ryan Jensen, wide receiver Deonte Thompson, tight end Dallas Clark and outside linebacker John Simon. Clark hasn't played since Pitta was activated from injured reserve-designated to return.
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