The Baltimore Ravens have usually been known as a run-first offense.With one of the league's best runner in Ray Rice, any team would be crazy to bypass the opportunity to put the ball in their best offensive player's hands as much as possible. Over the past two seasons, that's resulted in Rice being among the top runners in the NFL and the best all-purpose back in terms of rushing and receiving.
This season, the Ravens have been very inconsistent in their attention to the run game versus featuring the passing game more prominently. In the Ravens two losses, while Rice had 99 rushing yards in the 24-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, he only total 42 yards on a measly nine carries in the 43-13 loss at the Houston Texans.
Even more disturbing is the statistics for the last two games, both victories. In the Ravens 55-20 blowout of the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium, Rice once again barely got the rock, with only 13 carries for 35 yards, while the rest of the team had 15 other carries for 43 more yards.
In this past week's 13-10 close call at the Pittsburgh Steelers, Rice and the Ravens were shut down from rushing the ball, with a grand total of 23 attempts for only 47 yards, an average of two yards per carry. Granted, the Steelers are the stingiest team in allowing rushing yards in the league, but of that terrible total, Rice's line was 20 carries for 40 yards.
If the Ravens plan to continue their winning ways, they will have to have more success in the running game regardless of their improvement in passing the ball. The team has lessened the wear and tear on Rice by limiting his carries, so he should be fresh enough to have enough spring in his step over the next six games to remain ready for the post season once again.
The San Diego Chargers may not make running the ball much easier for the Ravens this weekend as they are ranked third in the NFL in run defense (88 yards/game). Interestingly, they have the third least number of attempts against them, meaning opponents are passing the ball much more often.
If the Ravens get a lead on San Diego, while they need to put their collective feet on the Chargers throats, they should do their best to do it on the ground to control the ball, the clock and keep the dangerous Chargers offense off the field. However, two straight runs up the middle of the defense is not the way to get it done.
Getting the ball into Rice's hands and opening holes for him to run through would be a huge lift to the offense and open up the passing game. The Ravens need to do more often and more successfully. This Sunday would be a great place to start.
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