The call for Ray Rice to get the ball has returned.
After being glossed over for long stretches early in the season, Rice only had 12 carries in Sunday’s 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that snapped the Ravens’ 15-game home winning streak.
Rice averaged 6.5 yards per carry, including a 34-yard touchdown run that put the Ravens ahead 20-13 in the third quarter.
Rice didn’t carry the ball once in the fourth quarter.
In their first full series, the Ravens went three plays and out as Bernard Pierce, Rice’s backup, lost 1 yard on a carry. After Joe Flacco completed a 12-yard pass to Vonta Leach, he threw incomplete on the next three plays.
That gave the Steelers the ball back with 6:14 remaining as Charlie Batch led them 61 yards on 12 plays for the winning field goal as time expired.
Rice has 872 yards on 198 carries and 8 touchdowns. At this same point a season ago, Rice had 926 yards on 208 carries and 9 TDs.
“It’s real easy to look at the stat sheet and say, ‘Hey, this guy should get the ball more. That guy should get the ball more.’ You’re trying to use all of your guys and move the ball,” coach John Harbaugh said. “When it’s successful, we are happy about it. When it’s not successful, you look at it.”
The Ravens opened the game with six consecutive passes, with Flacco completing three as he got them to midfield. The drive, however, stalled as Flacco had a miserable showing as he went 16-for-34 for 188 yards and two turnovers.
There’s a pattern in the Ravens’ losses when Rice doesn’t carry the ball as much as it appears he should. In their four losses in 2011, Rice averaged just 9 carries per game. In three losses this season, he averages 12.
Pierce, who has proven to be more than capable in his rookie season, had 34 yards on 8 carries against Pittsburgh.
“We have two really good running backs. To me, it’s important to use both of them. We have confidence in both of them in all situations,” Harbaugh said. “If we would have gotten a couple of first downs there in the fourth quarter -- if we would have gotten one first down in the fourth quarter -- I’m quite certain Ray would have carried the ball quite a bit. But, we didn’t. We didn’t get started. That’s the way that went.”