Yesterday in Houston, the Ravens treated Ray Rice and Vonta Leach like they were a cardboard box full of puppies left in a grocery store parking lot.
No, not cute. Abandoned.
At the conclusion of the Ravens’ 43-13 beat down by the Houston Texans, Rice had failed to top at least 100 yards from scrimmage for just the third time in 2012.
Rice is a phenomenal talent but Leach has had much to do with his success.
While it’s understandable that defenses will sometimes eliminate their opponents rushing attack, having it taken away by a guy standing on the sidelines wearing a headset and polo with a Ravens logo on it is an entirely different issue.
Of the Ravens’ 61 snaps on offense, Rice was on the field for 53 of them (87%). Reduced to the role of nothing more than a 5’-8” blocker, he only carried the ball nine times for 42 yards and had five catches for a total of 12 yards.
Leach, though, spent 77% of the offensive snaps watching from the sidelines. During the 14 plays he was in, he wasn’t always paired up with Rice as his role was reduced as well to help pick up blitzers rushing through a struggling offensive line.
The Ravens abandoned the run game too early and for no apparent reason.
During the first half, the Ravens converted only four total first downs, two of which came on the ground on the first drive of the game.
After the first four offensive plays for the Ravens, Rice had carried the ball three times for 27 yards (9.0 YPC).
However, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron pumped the brakes on the run game, choosing to pass six consecutive times. The first three stifled the opening drive, resulting in a long Justin Tucker field goal, and the next three led to a quick Sam Koch punt.
After being pinned near their own goal line, the Ravens gave Leach a rare carry, on which he provided some breathing room by taking the ball to the 9-yard line. Cameron called two consecutive passes though, which both resulted in sacks – the second coming in the end zone for a safety, which handed Houston momentum they would never relinquish.
Abandoning the run game is counterproductive for a struggling offense. Play-action passes are nullified and the guessing game between an offense and defense becomes non-existent when everybody knows the ball will be in the air.
If Rice and Leach had been given the opportunity to continue to pick up yards on the ground, perhaps the Ravens convert that 2nd-and-4 from their own 9 and put together a drive. If not, they likely at least punt the ball away, rather than gift-wrapping two points for the Texans.
One thing is for sure – there aren’t many silver linings – especially on offense – after the loss to the Texans. The only good thing for the team is that Rice and Leach probably feel the freshest they ever have at the mid-point of a season.
After all, they’ve rarely been used.