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Ray Rice Historically Heats Up In December

Posted Dec 6, 2012

The fifth-year running back has played his best football late in the season.

Ravens fans are clamoring for Ray Rice to get the football more often.

History suggests that’s exactly what will happen over the Ravens’ final four games.

The Ravens fifth-year running back tends to heat up in December, and has been the NFL’s best late-season running back for the last three years.

"It’s that late time of year where the cream rises to the top,” Rice said Wednesday.

Since 2009, Rice has rushed for an NFL-leading 1,646 yards in December and January games. The next closest back is Tennessee’s Chris Johnson with 1,400 rushing yards.

The Ravens game on Sunday against the Steelers was the start of December football, and Rice was the subject of controversy after only getting 13 touches. But as the Ravens head into the final four weeks of the season – which will all come against teams vying for a playoff spot – Rice expects to figure heavily into the game plan each week.

"Going forward, we are going to do as I always say, work on our execution, and my touches will definitely come,” he said.

Rice currently ranks seventh in the NFL in total touches (247), and his production through the first 12 games is in line with previous seasons. He currently has 872 rushing yards, and his career high (since becoming a starter) through 12 games is 926 yards and career low is 844.

The Ravens have made it a point not to overwork Rice in the early part of the season so that he’s ready for the stretch run, and Rice feels refreshed going into the final four games.

"This is one of the best [seasons] I’ve ever felt going into December football, just being honest,” Rice said. "I think that has something to do with, obviously, being smart with my touches, but also having to do with how I take care of my body.”

Rice attributes his late-season stamina to the way he trains and works in the weight room, and said that he’s actually working on getting stronger at this point rather than just maintaining.

Rice also credited rookie running back Bernard Pierce with helping him stay fresh because Pierce has become a solid complementary piece in the running game.

"Bernard Pierce has been a great complement to me where I’m able to come in and bust big runs now, because it’s that late time of the year where the run game is more important,” Rice said.

The focus now for Rice is to continue building up his strength through the final month of the season, so that the Ravens can lean on him to secure their fifth straight trip to postseason and make a run at the Super Bowl.

"You have to focus on playing through January if you are going to be a playoff contender or a contender for a Super Bowl,” Rice said.

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