Ravens-Browns matchup of the day: Thursday

Posted Dec. 01, 2011 @ 11:58 p.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Ravens-Browns game:

Ravens' running game vs. Browns' run defense

Ravens RB Ray Rice's first 100-yard game came against Cleveland as a rookie in 2008. That season, the Ravens pounded away with their running game with rookie QB Joe Flacco under center, and bruising FB Le'Ron McClain and RB Willis McGahee were the primary ballcarriers. But when the clubs met in early November, Rice got most of the work, and he responded with 154 yards on 21 carries, highlighted by a 60-yard run.

By the next season, Rice was the Ravens' featured back, a role he has played very well for the last three seasons. The 5-8, 212-pound Rice is one of the NFL's more well-rounded backs, capable of running between the tackles and doing damage in space.

Rice, who has rushed for 722 yards and eight TDs on 179 carries this season, is also a very good pass catcher. He has hauled in 54 passes for 537 yards and two TDs, and only WR Anquan Boldin has had more passes thrown his way by Flacco.

"He can beat you running the ball and he can beat you with a check-down, as simple as a check-down," Browns MLB D'Qwell Jackson, Cleveland's leading tackler, said Thursday. "He's able to take it anywhere on that field.

"Ray, he seems to get stronger as the game goes on. They rely on him. The games they won this year, he's had big days running the ball. We're aware of that, and we have our issues with stopping the run. I'm sure they're going to come in here looking to run the ball. It's going to be a good test for us."

The Browns are allowing 138.6 rushing yards per game, second-most in the AFC behind the Colts. Only the Colts have more rushes attempted against them per game. The Ravens would figure to test the Browns with the running game throughout, unless circumstances forced them to do otherwise.