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Touchy subject for running back Rice, Ravens

| Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, 9:56 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Baltimore's Ray Rice scores past the Steelers' Cortez Allen and Brett Keisel during the third quarter Sunday Dec. 2, 2012 at M&T Bank Stadium. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

BALTIMORE – “Hey Diddle Diddle, Ray Rice up the middle” took on a life of its own this past week following the now clutch fourth-and-29 conversion the diminutive Baltimore running back converted a week ago in San Diego.

It even spawned a T-shirt that was adorned by many of the 71,442 Baltimore Ravens fans at M&T Bank Stadium in time for their game Sunday against the Steelers.

Following the Ravens' 23-20 loss to the Steelers, there was another favorite being thrown around the Baltimore locker room, and this one is well known by Ravens fans:

Why didn't Ray Rice touch the ball more than 13 times?

Sure, it wasn't as catchy as “Hey Diddle, Diddle,” but it was apropos.

Rice finished with 12 carries for 78 yards, including a 34-yard go-ahead touchdown run late in the third quarter, and one catch for 5 yards. Backup Bernard Pierce finished with four fewer touches than Rice.

“I don't know how many touches (he had),” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “Yes, you can write that story if you want, but that's not the factor in the game.

“We got the ball to guys, and Bernard Pierce looked pretty good. I thought our guys … we did fine.”

A week after touching the ball 30 times and accumulating 164 yards, including the “Hey Diddle, Diddle” play, Rice had his fewest touches in the past 37 games.

The last time he had fewer than 13 touches in a game was more than two years ago. Ironically, it was a loss against the Steelers when he finished with nine carries and two catches.

“My touches go with the game flow,” Rice said. “Obviously, I turned up a huge bunch of yards, and we could have run the ball a little bit more. But you know what? Situational football came into play. We put ourselves in the best position to win the game.”

Rice had only five touches in the decisive second half and accounted for 44 yards mostly because the Ravens' offense didn't have the ball much. Baltimore ran only 22 plays in the second half.

“Whatever they call is fine with me,” center Matt Birk said. “Ray makes big plays, and Bernard has been great for us this year. They are a little different style. It is a great change of pace for us. Sometimes, that's how it goes.”

Rice changed the game in the third quarter when he made a cutback run that he turned into a touchdown.

“Their defense is a hard over-pursuing defense, and I actually pushed Vonta Leach into somebody,” Rice said. “I was able to get the back door and made a big play from there.”

But after that run, Rice ran 10 yards on his next carry,then didn't touch the ball the rest of the game.

“I don't think we went away from him, but it was something that we did within our offense,” Leach said.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at mkaboly@tribweb.com

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