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In the days following the Ravens Monday Night Football loss in Jacksonville, Head Coach John Harbaugh – not to mention outside linebacker Terrell Suggs – emphasized the need to get Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice more involved in the offense.
That happened on Sunday.
Rice scored three touchdowns for the first time in his career and ran for 63 yards on 18 carries. He capped off three second-half scoring drives that helped the Ravens overcome a 21-point deficit to beat the Arizona Cardinals 30-27 at M&T Bank Stadium.
“I know what my role is on this team,” Rice said after the win. “I’m going to be a playmaker, and when my number is called, I’ll be ready.”
All of Rice’s touchdowns were set up by pass interference calls against Arizona in or near the end zone, which twice gave Baltimore first-and-goal from the 1-yard line, and once first-and-goal from the three.
Quarterback Joe Flacco and the passing game led the offense down the field, and then Rice finished the job.
“We found our way down there,” Rice said, “and our receivers did a great job of getting the calls, and we just did our job.”
Rice’s involvement in the offense was the center of discussion after the Jacksonville game, as Suggs questioned the game plan that gave Rice only eight carries in the 12-7 loss. Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron stressed that pounding the ground game was a focus coming into Sunday’s contest against Arizona, and the Ravens opened the game leaning on Rice.
Baltimore ran the ball on 11 of their first 19 plays and had early success on the ground, but after giving up two turnovers and allowing an 82-yard punt return touchdown, the Ravens had to change the approach.
“We ran the ball well in the first half but we didn’t execute,” Rice said. “When you don’t execute, that’s what happens. It felt like a replay of last week, except we were running the ball effectively.”
The early deficit forced the offense to turn to the passing game in the second half.
Baltimore primarily used the no-huddle, shotgun approach to move down the field and cut the Cardinals’ lead in the second half, and Flacco threw a record-high 51 times in the game.
But when the Ravens got close to the goal line, Rice was the preferred option, scoring two 1-yard rushing touchdowns and one 3-yard plunge.
“Touchdowns are never easy in this league,” Rice said. “I don’t care if they’re one yard or 99 yards, they’re not easy to come by [and] anybody will tell you that.”
Outside of the three touchdowns, Rice’s numbers were not eye-popping. He averaged 3.5 yards per carry, and also had seven catches for 36 yards.
But the three second half touchdowns were critical for the offense, which sputtered in the redzone in the first half and needed touchdowns to get back in the game.
“We had some big plays and were able to score touchdowns, which was huge,” Flacco said.
In the wake of the Jacksonville loss, Rice made a promise to his fantasy owners that he would put up better numbers the following week.
Three touchdowns later, Rice kept that promise and helped the Ravens get a much-needed victory.