Harbaugh: No set carries for Rice and Pierce

September, 4, 2013
9/04/13
10:00
AM ET
One of the biggest fantasy football questions about the Baltimore Ravens is the breakdown in carries between running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Over the past couple of months, I would get at least one question on this topic every week in my chat because many consider Pierce to be the most valuable backup running back in the league.

Pierce
Rice
The Ravens, though, are dealing with the reality of winning a football game and haven't mapped out carries for their top two backs.

"We’re not going to sit there and say, ‘Hey, get these guys these numbers,’ and lock ourselves into something," coach John Harbaugh said. "It’s by game. It’s how the game is going and what we need to do to try to win a game and just take it from there. I know that leaves us open to second-guessing and all that if we don’t do well. 'This guy should have gotten more carries. That guy should’ve gotten more carries. You should have thrown the ball more.’ Whatever. You do what you feel like you have to do in a game to try to win the game, and that’s what we’ll do.”

This subject has been overblown because I don't believe the Ravens are going to take the ball out of the hands of Rice, their top playmaker on offense, more than they did last season. The typical game plan had Pierce getting a couple of drives per game and spelling Rice during long possessions or after long runs. The Ravens have to be cautious about increasing Pierce's playing time too much because he has a history of getting nicked up.

Last season, his first in the NFL, Pierce had double-digit carries in five games including the postseason. When you take away his 22-carry game in the meaningless regular-season finale, he averaged eight carries per game in the second half of the season. Over that same span, Rice averaged 21.9 touches (and 17.6 carries). In other words, Rice was still a focal point of the offense.

The Ravens' ground game will play a big role in Thursday's season opener in Denver, especially if the last meeting with the Broncos is any indication. In the AFC divisional playoff game, the Ravens running backs combined for 36 carries, including 31 for Rice, against Denver and the No. 3 run defense in the NFL, while quarterback Joe Flacco threw 34 passes.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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