The running back had just five carries and no receptions in the 23-20 loss the Buffalo Bills. It was the fewest number of touches for Rice since his rookie season, excluding last year’s regular-season finale where the Ravens rested their starters.
The Ravens have stressed this week that the lack of involvement from Rice is not a recipe for success.
“We need to get Ray involved,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “We need to get Ray involved in every single way – pass game, run game, every single way. It’s definitely going to be important for us. We want to do that every week, and obviously, we did not do a good job of that last Sunday.”
The Ravens have struggled to run the ball through the season, and they went away from the running game in the second half against Buffalo. They finished with nine total carries, and dropped back to throw 31 straight times between the second and fourth quarters.
The pass-heavy approach was dictated by the score and lack of production in the running game, and Rice didn’t find fault in the decision to move away from the run.
“It was one of those games,” Rice said. “We put ourselves in a position, and we weren’t able to do some of the things that we wanted to do early on in the game. We weren’t able to do them very well, so we made a decision to kind of get away from it. That’s just what happens sometimes.”
Regardless of whether the Ravens shifted away from the run, they still want to get the ball in Rice’s hands. He has been one of the NFL’s most productive running backs at catching the ball out off the backfield, averaging 69.5 receptions for the last four seasons.
“When you get down as bad as we did, we had to get the ball down the field,” Rice said. “I don’t know if a check-down was going to be in Joe’s best interest.”
Part of the issue with getting Rice involved was that the Ravens often kept him in the backfield as an extra blocker in pass protection. The offensive line struggled to fend off the Bills’ pass rush, especially when they brought extra pressure.
“If you watch the tape, you will see him in pass protection more often than not,” Harbaugh said. “He got held in there in protection, blocking linebackers when they were bringing pressure.”
Ray played Sunday after missing the previous week with a strained hip flexor, but he said that the injury was not a factor in his involvement. Rice suffered no setbacks in the game, and Flacco pointed out that the silver lining was that the light workload allowed Rice more time to healthy.
“Maybe it works out better,” Flacco said. “Ray doesn’t get a lot of touches, and he has another week to get more and more healthy. That game is really over. It’s not really that important anymore. You’ve got to kind of move on and find out what we’ve got to do better to win this next one.”