ASHBURN, Va. – One of the factors that contributed to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 23-20 win against the Ravens last Sunday was the Ravens’ questionable decision to play the entire fourth quarter without giving running back Ray Rice a single carry or targeting him once in the passing game.
Because of that omission, several members of the Washington Redskins – the Ravens’ opponent this Sunday – said they fully anticipate that they will see a lot of Rice at FedEx Field in Landover.
“We get the short end of the stick. We’re going to get an angry Ray Rice,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “He’s a great talent. That fourth-and-29 [in the Ravens’ 16-13 overtime win against the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 25] was a testament to how hard he runs and how passionate he is, and it’s going to take a group effort. Not one guy is going to get him down. It’s going to take gang-tackling all day.”
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Added defensive end Jarvis Jenkins: “He’s going to get the ball more. He’s the head of that organization. Sorry to say it, but when he touches the ball, that offense is exceptional. I’m definitely going to expect more touches for him.”
With 198 carries, Rice ranks 13th in the NFL in rushing attempts. He is also 12th in rushing with 872 yards, but does lead the Ravens in rushing touchdowns with eight.
“I love watching him run,” Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “I don’t really want to particularly have anyone have to tackle the guy. But we’ve got our work cut out for us because that’s the No. 1 goal. You’ve got to handle Ray.”
Rice will tangle with a Washington defense that ranks fourth in the league against the run and has not fallen out of the top 10 this season. Opponents are averaging just 91.5 rushing yards, and only the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Jonathan Dwyer and the New York Giants’ Ahmad Bradshaw have broken the 100-yard mark against the Redskins.
Inside linebacker Perry Riley said the defensive players have excelled at tackles in the open field, but they also understand the importance of relying on each other to contain running backs.
“We’ve played a couple of good backs like Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin, and when you play guys like that, you need gang-tackling,” Riley said. “Having more than one person bring down the ball carrier always makes it easier on the defense. We’ve been doing a good job of that.”
Several Redskins pointed out that they have to be just as wary of quarterback Joe Flacco and wide receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. But Jenkins said as far as he is concerned, the bull’s-eye falls squarely on Rice.
“To beat those guys, you have to stop the run,” Jenkins said. “Ray Rice is one of the best backs in the league, and he’s going behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. So you’ve got to come out to the game and just play.”