CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 04: Running back Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs the ball against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
It's a statistic that just cannot be overlooked or understated. Handing off the ball to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice as often as possible leads to victories for the Ravens. Plain and simple, as long as the team keep feeding Rice to the opponents, the team will keep on the path to the post season and beyond. With a trip to the playoffs virtually assured at this point of the season, the Ravens need to refine what they are doing and focus on getting into a rhythm that leads to success.
That rhythm is obviously led by having QB Joe Flacco put the ball into the gut of #27 and letting him find holes in the defense and keep his feet while defying the laws of gravity for huge gains. The more we run, the more we control the ball. The more we control the ball, the less time the other team has it. The less time the other team has it, the better our chances of winning. Simple, isn't it?
Not only is it simple, it's pretty obvious when you look at the Ravens schedule, their wins and losses. Only one game stands out as the anomaly and that is the Ravens 37-7 wipe-out of the St. Louis Rams, where the storyline of the game was Joe Flacco-to-Torrey Smith times three early on, making it relatively unnecessary to run the ball. Rice had nine carries in that game, only one more than Flacco and the team rushed the ball a collectively 26 times against 48 passes.
Other than that game, the Ravens have won every game that Rice has had at least 18 carries and while his 29 for 204 yards in yesterday's win was his season's biggest workload, it made sense to keep feeding him the ball. It is not a coincidence that in the last three consecutive wins, Ray has rushed the ball at least 20 times in those games.
At times it has seemed that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has gotten too enamored with the sexiness of the passing game and abandoned the run way too early, usually leading to Ravens losses. Much has been made of his lack of carries in losses to the Seattle Seahawks (5), Jacksonville Jaguars (8) and Tennessee Titans (13). In looking at the stats, one could say that anytime that Rice has received more than the 13 carries he got in the Titans loss, the Ravens have won every time.
With the weather turning and the post season beginning to come into focus in which teams will probably be playing in mid-January, the need to control the ball and not give the opponents offense too much time, is to keep running the ball down their throats until they prove we cannot run the ball, which is just not going to happen. In the Ravens four wins over current playoff teams (Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals), Rice has gone over 100 yards in each contest other than the second Steelers game.
It appears doubtful that whomever comes out of the AFC West will be able to stop the Ravens, much less in a playoff game in Baltimore. The New England Patriots are the only team that might beat out the Ravens for the #1 seed and as good as their offense has been, their defense has been equally as bad. It seems had to imagine that the Pats could stop Ray Rice, whether the game is played in Baltimore or New England.
The recipe for success has been written many times so far in 2011. Whether or not the team wants to continue to follow it remains another thing, but looking at their recent trend and success, it appears that they are beginning to come around to seeing that while other teams may make the highlight reels with their wide-open offense, the Ravens can still win it like they did in 2000-01 with a pounding running attack and great defense.