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Thursday, January 19, 2012
Rice needs a big role in Foxboro

By Marty Callinan


Stew Milne/US PresswireRay Rice breaks an 83-yard touchdown run against the Patriots in their 2009 Wild Card playoff game. Rice would finish with 159 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the Ravens 33-14 victory.
One play was all it took for the Baltimore Ravens to set the tone when they last met the New England Patriots in the postseason.

Joe Flacco handed the ball off to Ray Rice on a run up the middle. Thirteen seconds and 83 yards later the Ravens had a lead they would not surrender.

Rice will more than likely have to play a big role again Sunday if the Ravens are hoping for a similar outcome in the AFC Championship Game.

If this season is any indication, as Rice goes, so do the Ravens. Rice averaged 9.0 rushes per game in Baltimore’s four losses and 21.2 rushes per game in its 13 wins.

Here is a look at why Rice is so important to the Ravens’ Super Bowl chances.

Versatility
Rice has been the definition of an every-down back since his break out in 2009, which was highlighted by a huge day in Foxboro.

Rice gained 2,041 yards from scrimmage that year and capped it off with another 286 yards in two playoff games. Rice topped 2,000 total yards again in 2011 (2,068). The only other running backs to gain 2,000 or more yards from scrimmage in multiple seasons since 2001 were Priest Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinison, who each did it three times, and Larry Johnson, who did it twice.

Rice also added a one-yard passing touchdown to his résumé back in Week 10 to further complicate defensive game plans near the goal line.

Moving the Chains
The Ravens rely on Rice to move the chains on third down. Rice received 52 total looks on third down (25 rushes, 27 targets), 20 more than tight end Ed Dickson.

Rice made the most of his third-down chances and outperformed his competition in the process.

Big Plays
As the Patriots discovered a little more than two years ago, Rice has the ability to take any play in for six points. His seven rushes for 30 or more yards in 2011 were more than any other player. Five rushes went for 50 or more yards. Chris Johnson is the only player in the last five years to match that total (2009).

Rice does not need to bounce outside to create big plays on the ground. He had seven rushes between the tackles go for 20 yards or more (tied for fourth in the league).

The Patriots may be up to the challenge of stopping big plays Sunday. They allowed just four rushes of 20 or more yards between the tackles, also tied for fourth-best in the NFL.

Of course stopping big plays in the run game is just half the battle. Rice leads all running backs since 2008 in receptions of 30 or more yards with 11.