AFC Conference Championship Matchups: Ray Rice Leads Ravens Rushing Attack vs. Patriots Run Defense

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AFC Conference Championship Matchups: Ray Rice Leads Ravens Rushing Attack vs. Patriots Run Defense

The Ravens transitioned more to the pass during the regular season, resulting in one offensive coordinator’s termination for not utilizing Rice more. Despite the transition, the Ravens had the 11th ranked rushing attack in the NFL. The Patriots have the 9th ranked rush defense, mostly because of the large leads teams have been forced to come back from. Yet, Rice may have an advantage against the rookies on the right side of the Patriots defensive front seven. Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones is an emerging pass rusher for the Patriots, but has played over aggressively at times, and has struggled defending the run. Rookie linebacker Dont’a Hightower had 60 tackles and 4 sacks this season, but has struggled in reading the running back, and to get off blocks. Middle linebacker Jerod Mayo will have the Rice assignment, and Mayo’s success or failure may determine what kind of game Rice has. Standing in Mayo’s way will be Pro-Bowler Vonta Leach, who is questionable for this game, but is one of the leagues best fullbacks blocking for run or pass. Rice also accumulated 61 receptions for 478 yards and a touchdown during the regular season. Coming out of the backfield on a variety of routes, screens, swings, and outs, the angle route is a particular favorite of the Ravens for Rice. Most routes out of the backfield are schemed to get Rice against the easily winnable match of the Patriots linebackers. It will be a major emphasis for the Ravens to get Ray Rice involved early and often. After all, Ray Rice has killed the Patriots in the playoffs before, with an 83-yard touchdown carry on the first play of the Wild Card round of the playoffs back in 2010.