One of the biggest stories of the Ravens’ 2009-10 season was the emergence of second-year running back Ray Rice. Some skeptics thought that Rice was too small to carry the load and he was a third-down back at best. He silenced his critics, though, by racking up 2,041 total yards (1,339 rushing, 702 receiving), which was good for second in the league. As a result of his stellar regular season performance, Rice earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl in Miami.
Joining Rice on the field were fellow teammates Ray Lewis (11th appearance), Haloti Ngata (first) and Le’Ron McClain (second). Ed Reed was selected for the sixth time, but didn’t play in the game most likely because of some lingering injuries. Of the four Ravens who actually played in the game, Rice had the biggest impact. He carried the ball seven times for 42 yards and caught three passes for 15 yards. Rice didn’t get into the end zone, but he provided the AFC with their best ground threat. He averaged six yards per carry and busted out some vintage Ray Rice runs, weaving his way through the defense and breaking tackles left and right.
For much of the game, the AFC backfield was a familiar sight for Ravens’ fans featuring both Rice and McClain. The duo was successful during the regular season and the Pro Bowl was no different. McClain spent most of the night blocking for his teammate, but he did carry the ball two times for six yards including a three-yard run on fourth-down to seal the victory for the AFC. Most of the offensive game plan involved throwing the ball instead of establishing a running game, which is to be expected in a game with such high entertainment expectation levels. Ravens fans would’ve liked to see more of their star running back on the field, but it’s hard to please everyone.
Lewis, an 11-time Pro Bowl selection, was mic’d up for the occasion and was out there directing the troops like usual. His career may be coming to an end in the near future, but you would never be able to tell by his play on the field. Lewis no longer has the elite physical attributes that he used to, but his knowledge for the game just keeps getting better. His presence alone makes him a force on the field no matter who is playing next to him. However, Lewis does benefit by having the 6-foot-4, 345-pound Ngata in front of him gobbling up blockers, both in the regular season and the Pro Bowl. Ngata once again did what he does best and plugged up the middle, making it tough on the NFC to get any type of running game going. He, like McClain, made a crucial fourth-down play by stopping Frank Gore one yard shy of the first down just before halftime.
All in all, the Ravens made a great showing at the 2010 Pro Bowl. They represented their team and organization very nicely and proved that all of the selections deserved to be there. Let’s hope for more of the same next season, even though Ravens fans would rather see the entire team playing in the game after the Pro Bowl.