The 49ers face off against the Ravens tomorrow in a game that features a pair of strong running backs. We all know what Frank Gore brings to the table. However, this is the first time the 49ers will face Ravens running back Ray Rice. The Ravens back is having a fairly solid season, having rushed for 663 yards thus far, averaging 4.2 yards per carry.
Although Rice has been a very solid back for them, the Ravens are one of the more pass-heavy teams in the NFL. They are third in the league in pass attempts and only 25th in rushing attempts. I haven't seen enough Ravens game to describe their regular offensive scheme, but that kind of disparity does have me scratching my head. They are winning football games so you can only question so much, but it is intriguing nonetheless.
Arguably the most important stat for Rice is his career-high eight rushing touchdowns to go along with his two receiving touchdowns. He has been scoring at a solid rate and faces a 49ers rush defense that has not given up a rushing touchdown this season. No team has gone an entire season without giving up a rushing touchdown, and this week brings as big a challenge as any to that run. The 49ers have faced some solid running backs this season, but Rice is probably the best to date (no offense to Shady McCoy). Will we see the rushing TD streak snapped this week? As long as the 49ers win it doesn't matter, but it's a pretty impressive run thus far.
As for the 100-yard rushing streak,Rice has rushed for 100+ yards three times this season against Pittsburgh, Houston and Cincinnati, all at home. If this game is a rough and tumble battle, as opposed to a Ravens blowout, Rice will have his work cut out for him. Ray Rice isn't a 4.2 40 guy, but he has what folks might call football speed.
Naturally a great running back like Frank Gore can respect the skills of Rice. The best line from Gore yesterday came when he was asked if he'd say Rice was as good as him:
Aw, man. Come on, man. I'm not going to answer that question. I'm never going to put another man in front of me, but I like his game a lot.