Despite the Baltimore Ravens recent success that has them right in the middle of the playoff race, their offense not only remains predictable, but it hs even been more so in the last five games than ever before. Look at this trend specifically about the team's reliance on RB Ray Rice during this period.
I noticed that it appeared that whenever Rice ran the ball or caught a pass for a long gain (19 yards or more), rather than bring in one of the other bigger running backs to give Ray a breather, then almost always gave the ball right back to him on the very next play, sometimes two or three plays in a row after that long gain. Not only was Rice obviously winded, but so was the opponents' defense, which seems like the perfect time to pile on with the fresher and heavier legs.
But no, look at these numbers:
Since week 9 at Cleveland, Ray Rice has had 10 plays, either rushing or receiving, of 19 yards or more. One of those resulted in a TD, so that one is out of the equation, leaving nine plays of that length. Seven of those nine times, the very next play was a run by Rice, only two of them gaining over three yards and those were both only 5 yard runs. Once, they gave the ball right back to Rice two straight times, for gains of five, then -1 yards. Even more questionable, twice they actually gave the ball three more times in a row to Rice right after those long gains! Never did he gain more than 3 yards on a play. Furthermore, in this past week's Detroit Lions game, Rice ran 52 yards on the opening drive deep into the Red Zone. Inexplicably, the Ravens ran Rice for two yards, then again for no gain, and then Flacco passed to him for a six yard gain but Rice fumbled the ball and Detroit recovered to end that scoring threat. Think that his fatigue from being the target three straight times after a 52 yard run had anything to do with not being able to hold onto the ball?
Predictability should have very little to do with just one single player on a football team. Perhaps the QB can be marked with trends based on play calling, but the RB position on the Ravens has been one of strength based on numbers and the three-headed monster that had the team in the AFC Championship Game last year and all teams afraid of our running game. While Ray Rice has been a major reason fro our success this season, we have actually had more success the less he runs the ball and the more the carries are spread around to Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain.
Prior to the Lions game, I said the Ravens needed to run the ball at least 40 times and I wanted to see Rice with a maximum of 20 carries, McGahee with 12 and McClain with eight. I came pretty close as Ray had 13, Willis 12 and LeRon six. The remaining nine carries were spread around to others to total the 40 I had hoped for. Forty rushes and 23 passes is more like the Ravens team of last year, when we controlled the ball and the time clock. This should be a lesson to the team as its future recipe for success, as the next opponent, the Chicago Bears, are ranked 24th in the NFL against the run.
However, the predictability, especially giving the ball right back to Ray Rice after long gains, needs to stop and they need to bring in fresh legs when they have the other team winded and down in the dumps. The stats don't lie in this case, and as good as Rice has been this year, those plays after the big gains have not added to his reputation and will only add unnecessarily to the wear and tear on his smaller body.