A tough tackle: Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Steelers LB Lawrence Timmons

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There is no mystery to be solved about Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens running back and spark plug to their offense. But there is something puzzling about the Ravens' offense in general.

They have averaged 36.8 points per game in five home games after putting up 55 points on the Oakland Raiders last Sunday. But, in four road games, the offense sputters and stalls, averaging only 17.5 points away from M&T Bank Stadium.

Case in point: The offense struggled in back-to-back road games against the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns, scoring only 13 points. Then the Ravens came back home and scored the most points in franchise history and the most by an NFL team this season against the Raiders.

"If we scored 55, you would have thought I had 300 yards rushing," Rice said after the game.

But he didn't. Rice had just 13 carries for 35 yards on a day when quarterback Joe Flacco passed for 341 yards and three touchdowns and didn't even play in the fourth quarter.

That is a departure for the Ravens, who are trying to find more ways to utilize their offense and not have everything run through Rice.

"They got some good players who can get it going, but Rice is the lead guy," said cornerback Keenan Lewis, who is fourth on the team with 36 tackles. "They start with the run to set up the pass. When you got a back like that, it's good to do that. We know that, they know we know that, so they're going to stick with what they do."

Rice is one of the best all-purpose players in the league, not to mention being more difficult to tackle than a fire hydrant. And he runs behind two-time Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach, who was the lead blocker when Houston's Arian Foster led the league in rushing in 2010.

Rice is sixth in the AFC with 657 yards rushing and second with seven touchdowns. But he also is third on the team with 35 catches for 284 yards, boosting his career yards from scrimmage total to 7,553. Rice has 36 career touchdowns and needs six more to move into second place on the team's all-time list, behind Jamal Lewis (47).

The Steelers will need another big game from inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, the hero of Monday night's victory against the Kansas City Chiefs because of his interception two plays into overtime that set up the winning field goal. It was a fitting end to a performance in which Timmons had seven tackles, one quarterback hurry and two passes defensed.

"Those short-in-stature guys are definitely tougher to tackle because he runs with power like a big back, but he has a low center of gravity so he's always moving forward," said safety Will Allen, who will start his sixth game in a row for injured Troy Polamalu. "You got to figure out ways to get him down. There is no high [area]. You got to hit him mid -- in the waist or lower. Wrap him up and get him down. That's what we have to do. We got to do it to win this game."


Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com; twitter: @gerrydulac.


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