Ravens ride Rice into AFC Championship
The outlook wasn't good for Ray Rice. He only had 23 yards at halftime even though the Ravens were tied with the Denver Broncos.
Despite the lack of success with the run, the Ravens didn't relent. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, who took over in Week 15 after Cam Cameron was fired, re-assured Rice that they were going to win or lose the divisional playoff game with the ball in his hands.
“You got to keep them honest,” Rice said of his halftime chat, his team tied at 21 but constantly having to come from behind to even the score. “Coach Caldwell told me we need to run the football well. I got my chunks of yards.”
That Rice did. He finished with season highs of 30 carries for 130 yards. His 1-yard TD run in the third quarter tied the score at 28. On that drive, after the Ravens recovered a fumble by Peyton Manning, Rice ran the ball for all 5 plays.
Even with quarterback Joe Flacco's hot hand, and their propensity to call fade routes and back-shoulder throws to the corner of the end zone from that range, the offense didn't resort to old habits.
They gave Rice the ball three times from the 4 before he cracked the goal line.
Before Justin Tucker’s 47-yard field goal won the game in the second overtime, 38-35, it was Rice who put them in position after the defense generated another turnover from Manning. Caldwell’s play-calling showed confidence in the run.
Flacco threw incomplete on 1st-and-10 with the ball on Denver’s 45. In a passing situation, the Ravens did a delayed hand-off to Rice to ran for 11 yards to get them in more comfortable range. A few more runs later by Rice, Tucker hit the winner.
Rice had fumbled twice last week in a 24-9 wild-card win vs. the Indianapolis Colts. Rookie Bernard Pierce was coming on in a backup role and was sharing the carries. Pierce only had 5 Saturday.
They stuck with Rice, who was determined to not commit any more turnovers.
"One thing I vowed to do ... was be smarter with the football. You didn't see Ray Rice out there trying to make something out out of nothing," Rice said. "You saw Ray Rice taking what they gave us, churning up yardage and in crucial situations protecting the football. That’s smart football and that’s what I’ll continue to do. I’ll try to make plays but I got to be smart in situations."