Rice Focused On Following Leach

Ray Rice started the ‘#LeachToTheBeach’ Pro Bowl campaign for his bruising fullback.

Posted by Garrett Downing on Tuesday, December 6th, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Categories: Garrett Downing, Week 13 vs Browns

Ravens running back Ray Rice came into Sunday’s game against Cleveland focused on staying behind his lead blocker – Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach.
 

“Usually if I stick around with my fullback, he’s been my best friend,” Rice said.
 
The strategy worked.
 
Rice rushed for a career-high 204 yards on 29 carries in a 24-10 victory over the Browns. With Leach clearing the way, the Ravens had 290 rushing yards, running a franchise-record 55 times.
 
“What I really tried to do this week was stay with Vonta, and usually he would take me home, whether it was going to be a five-yard run or it was going to be a 60-yard run,” Rice said.
 
It was a dominating performance by the Ravens offense, and while Rice pointed to his fullback and offensive line as key to the success, Leach wasn’t as quick to take credit.
 
“It’s not only me,” Leach said. “Ray is a great back, for my little part in it, I felt pretty good, so hopefully we can just continue this thing.”

Rice’s focus on sticking with Leach came after the game against San Francisco, where the four-year running back attempted to cut back on a few runs, rather than sticking with his fullback. Rice wore a microphone during the game for the NFL Network’s Sound FX feature, and at one point he talked with Head Coach John Harbaugh about sticking with his blockers through the hole.

“Let’s say this, when in doubt, stay with it, when the cutback is there, take it,” Harbaugh told him. “But when in doubt, stay with it.”

The Ravens opened the game pounding the football on the ground, and as they had early success, the Browns linebackers started playing up on the line to fill the holes.
 
Leach was the one there to meet them, clearing the way for Rice.
 
“There were some big-time collisions with Vonta and their three linebackers,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “We ran a lot of lead plays, and Vonta was at the head of those lead plays.”
 
In addition to paving running lanes for Rice, Leach also had some rare chances of his own to run the football. The bruising fullback had four carries for 12 yards against Cleveland.
 
Coming into this season, Leach had just three rushing attempts in his seven-year career.
 
“I got a couple of first downs, so I’m feeling pretty good about that,” Leach joked after the game.
 
Leach is a blocking-first fullback, but has been used in some short-yardage situations and has eight carries on the year. He’s also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, and has 11 receptions for 44 yards.
 
“I just want to do anything that I have to do to help this team to win,” Leach said.
 
This is Leach’s first season in Baltimore, after playing the last four years in Houston. During his time with the Texans, Leach helped clear the way for two 1,000-yard rushers – Arian Foster in 2010 and Steve Slaton in 2008. Rice is just 74 yards away from the 1,000-yard mark this season.
 
Leach made it to the Pro Bowl last season, and Rice is doing his part to get him back to Honolulu. Rice has started a Twitter campaign called “#LeachToTheBeach,” encouraging fans to vote Leach to the Pro Bowl.
 
More performances like Sunday’s might just do the trick.
 
“Ray was a Pro Bowl back before I got here, he’s obviously one of the top backs in the league,” Leach said. “I’m just happy to be blocking for him.”

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