It seems that every season there's a game where the Ravens coaches forget about their best offensive player on the football, running back Ray Rice.
That's the bad news.
Moving forward, there's generally some good news that follows. After their temporary amnesia regarding Rice, the coaches tend regroup and include him more in the following week's game-plan, given the versatility the diminutive running back brings to the offense.
Looking back to the 2011 season, the Ravens had a road game against Jacksonville in which they were heavy favorites. The Ravens proceeded to hand the ball off to Rice just eight times in a bizarre 12-7 loss.
The next week? The Ravens made sure not to abandon the run, handing the ball to Rice 18 times for 63 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-27 comeback win over Arizona. Rice also caught seven passes for 36 receiving yards.
Rice continued to do well until the Seattle game that season, where he only carried the ball five times for 27 rushing yards in a 22-17 loss (though he did get eight receptions for 54 receiving yards.) The next week? Rice carried the ball 20 times for 104 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Cincinnati.
In 2012, the Ravens coaches took a lot of criticism for giving Rice just nine carries in a 43-13 loss against Houston. The thought was that after a solid opening drive, the Ravens abandoned the run way too early. After a bye that followed the Texans game, Rice carried the ball 25 times for 98 yards and a touchdown in a 25-15 win over Cleveland.
This year has been a little bit different in that the offensive line is offering both Rice and Bernard Pierce little room to run through. If the plays aren't there, there's no sense in running the ball. Rice, himself, even indicated that mid-game against Buffalo, it was probably best for the Ravens to get away from running the ball.
"I've been down the road of saying, ‘We need the carries, we need this,'" Rice said. "No, we need to execute. It starts up front. We need to get the fundamentals. The backs have to help the lineman with their run courses. We just have to get better all the way around."
But it is apparent that when the Ravens have games like last week's against Buffalo, a large part of the preparation process involves finding ways to get Rice the ball the following week.
Since his rookie season in 2008, the Ravens are 34-9 when Rice touches the ball (running and receiving combined) 20 times in a single game. The stats show that the Ravens have a greater chance to win games when Rice receives around 20-to-25 touches.
As dangerous as Rice is, the Ravens cannot afford to waste his talent on the field.
"We need to get Ray involved in every single way — pass game, run game, every single way," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It's definitely going to be important for us. We want to do that every week, and obviously, we did not do a good job of that last Sunday."