CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 01: Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs for a touchdown during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Baltimore Ravens fans as well as most football fans regardless of their rooting interest already know what a great player Ray Rice is. They know how dangerous he is and when he is getting the ball and going good, the Ravens usually end up winning the game. Conversely, if you look at the games the Ravens lost this season, the common denominator is the lack of touches Rice received.
As good of a regular season you might think he had, you might not truly know how amazing it really was. Rice finished second in the NFL in rushing yards (1,364) to Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew (1,606). He added 74 receptions for 704 yards, both second best among running backs only to New Orleans Saints RB Darren Sproles (86 for 710 yards).
Rice also led the NFL in runs of at least 40 yards with five, including two long TD runs (70, 51 yards) in the 24-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in week 17. His clutch performance just earned him the AFC Offensive Player of the Week award, as noted in a story on BaltimoreRavens.com.
However, it is his combined total of rushing and receiving yards that is by far the most impressive stat of all. His combined total of 2,068 was the best in the league this season. His closest competition for combined rushing/receiving yards was Jones-Drew (1,980), followed by Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (1,841).
Furthermore, according to the NFL, Rice is one of only two players in NFL history to ever have multiple seasons of at least 1,200 rushing yards and 700 receiving yards (Pro Football Hall of Fame RB Marshall Faulk did it four times). In 2009, Rice had 1,339 rushing and 702 receiving yards.
In 2010, Rice had 1,220 rushing yards on 16 more attempts but only five TD runs, compared to his 12 in 2011. He also had 63 receptions for 556 yards and one TD compared to the three he had on his 76 catches for 148 more yards in 2011.
Despite the Ravens opponents knowing how much of an offensive threat he is, teams are still unable to contain him. His ability to stay on his feet, fight for extra yardage with his low center of gravity, as well as make something out of nothing on short passes makes it difficult for the defense to stop him regardless of how much they try to simply contain him.
He is without a doubt, the Ravens key to their offense and while he will not be able to overcome the incredible passing seasons by Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees, he surely deserves mention in the discussion of the NFL Offensive Player of the Year.