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Pats must contain Rice

Ray Rice outruns Manny Lawson (99) and Nate Clements for a 70-yard score against the Bengals.

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Ray Rice outruns Manny Lawson (99) and Nate Clements for a 70-yard score against the Bengals.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ray Rice has appeared in eight playoff games, none more memorable than when he ran for 159 yards to help the Ravens beat the Patriots 33-14 in a January 2010 wild-card game.

On the first play from scrimmage, he ran 83 yards for a score.

"If you want to ask me if that was my fondest moment in my NFL career, yes it was," Rice said. "When you can do something that special in a playoff game in another team's stadium, that was huge. And that's something that I'll cherish for the rest of my life."

About the only thing that could top that is playing in his first Super Bowl, a quest he might realize if he can run wild again in Sunday's AFC title game against those same Patriots.

Now in his fourth season, Rice has emerged as Baltimore's main offensive threat. The 5-foot-8 running back stepped into that role in his second season, when he recorded the first of three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

Rice has finished each of his four seasons with an appearance in the playoffs. This is the second time Baltimore has advanced to the AFC title game.

"I'm not going to say it's been easy. It's been very hard every year," Rice said.

"I've been spoiled. I've been in the playoffs and played in every single game but one."

Rice was the only player this season with more than 2,000 yards of offense, combining 1,364 rushing yards (and 12 scores) with a team-high 76 catches for 704 yards (and three scores).

It doesn't matter that New England was 31st against the pass this season. Baltimore needs Rice to run the ball effectively. That will make it easier for Joe Flacco to pass and, more important, keep New England's prolific offense on the sideline.

"When you can keep a quick-striking offense off the field, it limits the game," Rice said. "So in order to keep (Patriots quarterback) Tom Brady off the field, I'm just going to say we have to simply execute at a high level."

And the Patriots know it.

"They're the type of team that is going to run the ball," New England defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "His size doesn't matter because he has a big heart. I think the guys on that offense rally around him. We have to make sure we contain him and slow him down. If we can do that, I think we'll be okay."

The Patriots probably will have a few new tricks designed to keep Rice in check.

"We always have different schemes (and) game plans," cornerback Devin McCourty said. "The biggest thing is being aware of where he is at all times."

Pats must contain Rice 01/20/12 [Last modified: Friday, January 20, 2012 9:58pm]
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