Running ball is Ravens' winning formula

MIAMI -- Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice sported a welt over his right eye. In Sunday's 26-23 win over the Miami Dolphins, it represented a badge of honor.

A funny thing happens when the Ravens commit to the running game -- they usually win. The Ravens are 38-6 (.863) when running back Ray Rice gets at least 15 carries in a game. Rice had 16 carries in the second half alone and finished with 27.

So while Rice took a beating, the Ravens didn't get beat.

"Jim (Caldwell, offensive coordinator) didn't let his foot off the pedal," said Rice, who had 74 yards rushing Sunday after gaining 89 in his first three games. "No matter what, we were going to run the football. That's a good feeling."

I'm not going to say the Ravens learned their lesson after running the ball twice in the second half of last Sunday's loss at Buffalo. The Ravens nearly beat the Bills by exclusively throwing the ball.

But on Sunday, the Ravens got a sense they could outlast the Dolphins and they wanted to reduce the times that Joe Flacco got hit. Sticking to the run paid off in the second half. The Ravens, who had not gained 100 yards rushing in a game this season, totaled 100 yards rushing after halftime against the Dolphins.

"We definitely wore them out a little bit," Flacco said.

The subplot of the return of the Ravens' running game was the redemption of Rice. He fumbled at his own 28-yard line in the first quarter, which resulted in a game-tying field goal. Dating back to the playoffs, this marked the fifth time that Rice had fumbled in his past eight games.

But Rice came back to score two touchdowns in the second half. His first score was a power run in between the tackles. His last one came as a result of him cutting to the outside when the Dolphins crashed to the inside, allowing him to walk into the end zone.

“That nose guard, he reminds me of Haloti Ngata. He’s a very strong," Rice said of the fumble caused by Paul Soliai. "Once he got his arms around me and bear-hugged me, he made a heck of a play. I was just able to keep my head in the game and bounce back and keep grinding.”

Grinding out yards is exactly what the Ravens offense did Sunday. It would have been easy for the Ravens to run the ball 40 times if they were averaging 5 yards per carry. That's why you have to admire them more by running the ball 40 times when they only averaged 3.3 yards per attempt.

The Ravens aren't going to proclaim that the running game is fixed. But, for one of the few times this season, there is hope that the ground attack can get back on track.

"We decided to run because we thought (that's how) we had the best chance of winning," coach John Harbaugh said. "But more than that, in this heat, the 1-yard run becomes a 3-yard run. And a 3-yard run becomes a 7-yard run. That's what happened."