Will Ray Rice's streak continue vs. Browns?
September, 27, 2012
By Jamison Hensley | ESPN.com
There's several streaks on the line Thursday night when the Cleveland Browns play at the Baltimore Ravens, from Baltimore winning 12 straight at home (the longest current streak in the NFL) to the Browns losing nine in a row dating back to last season (also the longest active streak in the league).
But there's another one to keep an eye on in this AFC North matchup: Ravens running back Ray Rice has gained at least 80 yards rushing in his past five meetings against the Browns.
Rice's career average of 96.9 rushing yards against Cleveland ranks as his second-highest against an opposing team that he has faced at least three times. He gained a career-high 204 yards rushing at Cleveland in December 2011.
So, should the Browns expect to see a lot of Rice on Thursday night? Not necessarily, according to Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
"This is a different team, different year," he said. "I think everybody knows, every week in this league takes on, almost, a life of its own. Probably the only thing I would add [to] the Ray Rice thing, I think the last four years kind of speak for [themselves]. If we as a staff gave Ray Rice the ball as much as everybody wants us to, he would wind up like the rest of the backs in this league. We're not going to let that happen."
Cameron added, "I think there's a sweet spot on how much you can use a three-down back in this business over a 20-game-plus season. We think we've found that sweet spot for him. It will vary a little bit from week to week, but you can't find many backs in this league that can last 16, 20 games, much less [for] five seasons. So I think we've got a good feel for what is best for him and what is best for us."
The way the Ravens have taken care of Rice has paid off. He has played in 54 straight games. The last time he sat out a game was the end of his rookie season in 2008.
Rice has made the most of his opportunities. He hasn't received more than 20 carries in the first three games, but he still ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing. Rice may not be a threat to get the ball every play. But he's a threat to break a defense when he does get it.
"He's really clearly one of the very best players in the league on the offensive side of the ball," Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said. "He's an outstanding receiver, got great balance, he's got really good speed. He hits the hole fast, he finds the holes. They're good up front. It's a combination that really stresses a defense. He's just a tremendous player."