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NFL Baltimore RavensSan Francisco 49ers

Harbaugh Bowl: Ray Rice Is Forgotten Man For Baltimore Ravens

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With all the talk over Ray Lewis and Joe Flacco for the Baltimore Ravens the past few weeks, one player has gone virtually unnoticed in helping the Ravens get to the Super Bowl, running back Ray Rice. Rice is the quiet star of the Ravens and he may also be the most important player on the teams.

Everyone always wants to talk about the quarterbacks and that’s natural because they play the glory position on the team and they are the only players who actually get assessed a win-loss record to their names. And it’s also obvious why there is so much talk about Ray Lewis because of his greatness over his career that will come to an end but perhaps no player on the Ravens will have the impact on the game more than Rice.

Since Jim Caldwell has taken as the Ravens offensive coordinator, the Ray Rice has only failed to secure 15 carries in a game one time, and the Ravens lost that game to the Denver Broncos. It was Caldwell’s first game with the new title and the Ravens got down big points early, so that was understandable. Since then though, the Ravens are 4-0 when Rice has gotten 15 or more carries (the Cincinnati Bengals game doesn’t count since Rice barely played). So we can add up Joe Flacco’s stats all we want, the Ravens success might be indicative of their use of Rice than it is to Flacco.

It’s actually very simple, when the Ravens use Rice correctly and give him carries, it keeps the defense honest and opens up the passing game for Joe Flacco. Is it any coincidence that Flacco’s stats show that he’s a much better quarterback when Rice gets his touches as opposed to when he doesn’t? in the past four games where Rice has gotten his 15 carries, Flacco’s passer rating is 115. 5, well above his 87.7 rating for the entire year, and he’s thrown 12 touchdowns and zero interceptions in those games. Clearly, Flacco benefits from Ray Rice being a big part of the offense.

So maybe we’ve been asking the wrong question all along, it shouldn’t be is Joe Flacco an elite quarterback? The real question is, is Ray Rice an elite running back? The answer to that question is pretty easy, yes he is.

Pay attention to how the Ravens use Ray Rice this Sunday, if he gets a lot of touches, the Ravens may very well win Super Bowl XLVII. If they fail to get him the ball, the San Francisco 49ers could be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Either way, don’t be surprised if the littlest man on the field has the biggest impact on the game.

you can chat with or follow Ben on twitter @BenGrimaldi