3. It's hard to believe that the Ravens' wins over the Browns and the Colts marked the first time Ray Rice has rushed for 100 yards (or more) in consecutive games in his entire NFL career. Of all that stats I heard on Sunday, this one jumped out at me the most. Even John Harbaugh seemed skeptical when a reporter mentioned it to him in his post-game news conference. Rice's 204 yards against the Browns and 104 yards against the Colts earned him that ultimately meaningless, but still interesting honor. "I didn't realize that," Harbaugh said. But if you look over the game logs, it's true. He's come close a few times, and easily could have done it if the Ravens wanted to do it. But officially, he hasn't done it prior to now. I would have bet a week's salary that it had happened in 2009, when he was basically the Ravens' entire offense, racking up more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage. But the closest he's ever come was when he ran for 87 yards in an easy win over the Bears, just a week after going for 166 yards against the Detroit Lions. Willis McGahee's presence certainly played a role. But another reason it's played out this way is because Rice has been so good at catching the ball out of the backfield, Cam Cameron sometimes tries to get the ball to him on screens that are essentially handoffs. And while we've debated to death whether Cameron gets him the ball enough, it's probably saved Rice from a little wear and tear on his body. He rarely takes a clean shot when he catches the ball out of the backfield. But what's obvious this year is how the Ravens focus on just handing him the ball him a lot more lately. In the past four games, Rice has carried the ball 96 times, the highest four-game total of his career. (He's also caught 11 passes during that span.) One thing Cameron did that I loved was give Rice the ball on a play where he lined up at wide receiver and came in motion. I still think the Ravens would have more success in the red zone if they ran the ball from spread formations like that than they would in jumbo packages. But either way, it seems safe to say that Rice won't see a game the rest of the year where he only has five carries. "Its really important," Harbaugh said of the running game. "Thats what this time of year is going to have to be about. Youre going to have to be able to do that. There are going to be games when youre not going to be able to run the ball, and well have to lean on the passing game. But, if you can run the ball, and you can stop the run, you should always have a chance this time of year. It will be interesting if the Ravens stick to that philosophy come playoff time. Rice has played in four playoff games where he was essentially the Ravens' primary ball carrier. In those four games, he's averaged only 16 carries. I guess I have to say Im pretty fresh right now considering the amount of work load I had in the first half of the season," Rice said. "Im not saying I saved my best for the end of the season, but Im doing a great job of keeping myself fresh. I get a great relief when Ricky Williams is in there. I am just looking forward to being consistent.
Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam