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Ravens players question third down play calling

OWINGS MILLS - Six third or fourth downs of two yards or fewer. Six passes. Zero first downs.

Even aside from third and fourth down, Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice once again took a backseat to the Baltimore Ravens' passing game.

Amid the Ravens' loss to the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco threw 42 passes. Rice had just 16 carries.

Only six days earlier, Flacco attempted 29 passes in the Ravens' season-opening win against the Cincinnati Bengals while Rice carried the ball only 10 times.

Even more so than any frustration stemming from his relatively limited amount of touches, Rice questioned his lack of opportunities against the Eagles on third and fourth and short.

Trailing by one and driving for a go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter, Baltimore faced a third-and-1 from its own 46-yard line. Flacco tossed an incompletion on the play, followed with another incompletion on fourth down and the Eagles were able to run out the clock from there.

"I'm not the play caller," Rice said in regard to his number of carries. "I just roll with whatever we've got to do. Whatever the play is called, I just always talk about execution. But there were some times where we had some third and shorts that I think we do have a great fullback [Pro Bowler Vonta Leach] and he should've been in the game."

Leach opted not to second guess the play-calling. Instead, he was critical of Baltimore's overall lack of execution on third down.

The Ravens were only 4-of-15 on third and fourth downs against the Eagles, including 1-of-8 on third and fourth downs of four yards or less.

"As a fullback or a runner, you always want to run the ball," Leach said. "But I think there are places in there where you can't just run it all the time. But it's not so much what [Philadelphia] did, it's what we didn't do.

"Third down is the money down," Leach added. "We need to find a way to stay on the field on third down, and we didn't for whatever reason."

Baltimore's first four drives of the second half against Philadelphia consisted of an interception and three three-and-outs.

Rice had a total of just two carries on those four possessions and didn't receive his first carry of the half until the third possession.

Aided by the Ravens' struggles, the Eagles erased a 10-point halftime deficit, eventually coming away with a 24-23 victory.

"Third down," Baltimore tight end Ed Dickson said. "We can't go three-and-out for that stretch of plays in the third quarter. Three-and-out killed us. It switches momentum. Momentum falls in their hands and gives them a chance to catch up. We need to execute better, whether that's what we're calling or guys making plays on third down."

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