Revisiting the Baltimore Ravens' 24-10 win at the Cleveland Browns:
As if anyone had any doubts before Sunday's game, the Ravens’ offense is at its best when giving the ball to Ray Rice.
This isn’t an opinion. This is a fact. Over the past two seasons (including playoffs), the Ravens are 5-7 (.416) when Rice gets 20 or fewer touches. They are 17-1 (.944) when he gets over 20 touches. This point was underscored by Rice's career-high 204 yards rushing in Cleveland.
No one is naïve enough to say that the Ravens should give the ball to Rice on the first 20 plays and it’s an automatic win (although that probably could have worked against the Browns). All this says is that Rice needs to be the focal point of the game plan every week. Taking the ball out of his hands only helps the other defense.
This strategy goes beyond Rice, too. Baltimore is built to run the ball. The Ravens have invested a lot of money and high draft picks in assembling an offensive line that can push defenders off the ball. They added an All-Pro fullback this summer.
Like clockwork, the Ravens have found their identity at this point in the season. Since 2008, when John Harbaugh took over as coach, Baltimore has rushed for the most yards rushing in the AFC in December and January (161.8 yards rushing per game and 33.8 attempts), a statistic that comes courtesy of the Ravens' public relations department.
It just makes you wonder why it takes the Ravens so long every year to discover their running game.
STAT THAT STICKS: 522 -- Rice's rushing yards in four career games at Cleveland Browns Stadium (an average of 130.5 yards rushing per trip).
OVERHEARD: "Getting this win without No. 52 is a blessing. When I came off to the sideline, he was coaching me as well. He said he was a running back in high school and was giving tips." -- Rice on Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who missed his third straight game with a toe injury.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Ravens (9-3), who are 6-0 at home this season, plays host to the winless Indianapolis Colts (0-12), who are 0-6 on the road.