Ray Rice has been arguably the most valuable Raven over the past five seasons.
There is little question that, without #27, a constant on the field who has not missed a game since his rookie season in 2008 – the Ravens would absolutely not have the NFL’s longest current playoff streak, making five consecutive postseason appearances.
He has been one of the NFL’s most dynamic players since entering the league, and his contributions to the team’s success are not to be diminished. When the Ravens have lost over the past five seasons, more often than not you can look at the stat sheet and see that Rice was denied his deserved involvement in the game plan.
When Rice gets the ball, the Ravens win. That’s just the way it’s been.
And that’s not to mention how great Rice is in the community and with the fans. He seems poised to step into the leadership void – at least partially – that will be left without #52 in the locker room and in the city. Little Ray deserves every penny of the 5-year, $40 million contract extension he signed in July.
Ok. Now that that’s out of the way, hopefully I can head off at least some of those who will immediately label me a Rice “hater” for what I’m about to write.
For some reason, Ray Rice seems to dip his hands in butter before the biggest games of his career – playoff games.
During regular season games throughout his career, Rice’s ball security has been superb. He has carried the ball 1,216 times in regular season contests, and has added 311 receptions (stats from NFL.com). That’s a total of 1,527 touches. He has fumbled only seven times in regular season games, an average of one fumble every 218 touches. He didn’t drop the rock at all during the 2010 season, and lost it just once this past season.
However, in playoff games, it’s a completely different story.
In eight career postseason appearances (he missed the Miami game, and had no touches in the Tennessee game in 2008), Rice has 122 carries and 30 receptions – 152 total touches. After his two fumbles Sunday against Indianapolis, he has now fumbled five times in playoff games.
That’s an average of a fumble every 30 touches.
In short, Rice is SEVEN TIMES more likely to fumble in the playoffs than he is in the regular season.
Video: John Harbaugh talks about Ray Rice’s fumbles
Fortunately, the Ravens were able to overcome his fumbles yesterday. The defense got the ball back after his first (which Marshal Yanda actually recovered, by the way) when Paul Kruger stripped Andrew Luck and Pernell McPhee chased it down (but not until the Colts drove to the Ravens’ 30-yard line), and Adam Vinatieri helped out by missing a 40-yard field goal attempt after his second of the day.
Were it not for Ray’s fumbles, Sunday’s game would have likely been out of reach for the Colts much earlier. Instead, the team and fans had to sweat for nearly four full quarters after Rice’s fumbles likely took at least six points off the board.
Again, this isn’t a “bench Rice” cry!
That would obviously be silly. Rice’s 47-yard reception at the end of the first half to set up the team’s first touchdown was unquestionably a key play in the game, and a perfect display of what he brings to the field every time he sets foot on it. The chemistry between he and Joe Flacco was obvious on the play, as the Colts appeared to have the screen sniffed out, only for Ray and Joe to improvise and make a huge play.
On the other hand, though, rookie Bernard Pierce ran like a man possessed against Indy, with 103 yards on just 13 carries. Over his last five games, Pierce has averaged 6.6, 4.0, 8.8, 4.0, and 7.9 yards per carry. Pierce has earned himself some more playing time, and Rice’s ball security issues only serve to further force the hand of the coaching staff.
Ray Rice has never had a reputation as a “fumbler.” Unfortunately, though, Ravens fans will now be holding their breath when he touches the ball next week in Denver (and hopefully moving forward after that), whether they want to admit it or not.