COMMENTARY | One week after Ray Rice ran the ball 27 times in a crucial Baltimore Ravens victory, now might not be the time to call for his benching. After all, we have seen what happens when he doesn't get the ball, after the Ravens were embarrassed in Buffalo and Rice received just five carries.
Yet that's exactly what I'm calling for. Running the ball might be crucial for the Ravens, but right now, Rice isn't.
In a feature for ESPN, Jamison Hensley opined that the Ravens need to continue to feed Rice the ball. He argues that Rice's increased workload was key to the Ravens' win over Miami, and it will produce further success as the season wears on.
What Hensley forgets is that in the Ravens' most impressive win this season, Rice was completely sidelined, and Bernard Pierce was the guy carrying the load on offense. He did the same in Cleveland when Rice went down midway through the game.
So let's throw the Rice touches, winning correlation out the window. Rice, when healthy is a crucial cog in this offense, but a simple increase in touches does not increase the odds of winning.
The real causal factor is the total number of rushes, and Shaun Draughn can garner the bulk of them as far as the Ravens should be concerned. As long as the Ravens establish a running game, they have a very good chance of winning.
With that in mind, the key question for the Ravens transforms. They shouldn't be asking how they can get Rice going. They should be asking how they can get their running game going. And that begins with Rice's backup, Bernard Pierce.
Nearly every rushing statistic favors Pierce.
He has racked up 10 broken tackles to Rice's two.
He has averaged nearly a half a yard more after contact than Rice.
He is the only Ravens runner to break off a gain of over 20 yards this season.
In nearly every way, Pierce has generated a superior statistical performance when compared with Rice.
Of course, football is a game of more than just numbers. But even the eye test favors Pierce, who despite being limited with a hamstring injury looks more explosive and decisive than Rice right now.
Rice is and always will be a vital cog in the Ravens offense. He is the team's best short yardage back, and even limited by his sore hip, he remains one of the best pass catching backs in the NFL. The Ravens should still use him.
But to use Rice like a number one back when his explosion and quickness are so limited is folly. Rice's current physical limitations have started to effect his style, making him conservative and even indecisive at times.
Pierce, while not completely healthy, is the superior option right now. He is hitting the hole harder, he is breaking more tackles and quite frankly, he's less valuable to the Ravens over the long term. The Ravens can afford to wear Pierce down with 20 carries a game, but down the stretch, Rice is the guy who they most need fresh.
Benching Rice may be viewed as an extreme reaction to the Ravens' rushing struggles. But in the short-term, it would help the Ravens get more consistent production out of the rushing attack, and long-term, it will help Rice recover and keep him fresh for the crucial months of December and January.
Sometimes, extreme problems call for extreme reactions.
Shawn Brubaker is a staff writer for the Cordell Beacon. He was a featured columnist for two years with Bleacher Report, as well as a member of their Breaking News Team. He currently hosts the Ravens Central Radio show, and he is a 2013 graduate of the Catholic University of America.
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