|Play of the Game: Ray Rice’s 83-yard run||01.10.10 at 5:34 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Former Patriot Kelley Washington had run off the Gillette Field shouting, “The end of an era!”
Baseball icon Cal Ripken, dressed head-to-toe in Ravens purple, had circulated through the Baltimore locker room, handing out congratulatory handshakes while grinning from ear-to-ear.
And John Harbaugh had taken a few minutes to accept kudos from New England owner Bob Kraft just after the Ravens’ head coach had given his team its pat on the back after its 33-14, wild-card win over the Pats.
It was after all these things that a few of the Ravens players explained that Ray Rice’s 83-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage in their playoff tilt with the Patriots was made even more spectacular by the fact that the running back had called his shot prior to the opening kickoff.
“He called it out,” said Baltimore running back Willis McGahee. “He said he was going to bust it open. Before pregame he said he was going to set the tone, and he set the tone. There’s no better way than that.”
Rice, who finished with 159 yards on 22 carries, wouldn’t go so far as saying he identified an 83-yard run as his method of tone-setting, but he did confirm his declaration prior to the game.
“I don’t know if I called the run, but I did say I wanted to be the one to set the tone for this win,” Rice said. “The safety was 15 yards deep so I knew I had to make a move on him, and after that it’s my job to do the rest. Eighty-three yards is a long way, don’t let anybody tell you different.”
The play was undoubtedly the most identifiable when looking at how the Patriots found themselves in their playoff predicament. New England had seemingly gotten off on the right foot when special-teamer Matthew Slater tackled Baltimore kick-returner Jalen Parmale at the Ravens 17-yard-line.
But with the Patriots in a 3-4 defense, the Ravens executed what center Matt Birk identified as a “simple zone run, about as fundamental as it gets.” The result was an enormous hole, which Rice took advantage of before bursting down the left sideline, out-running New England safety Brandon Meriweather.
“That first run set up the whole momentum of the game,” Washington said. “When he broke it, it was like the air was let out of the stadium. We just took that momentum and carried it through. That was the tone-setter.”
Perhaps the biggest block on the play came from Birk, who sealed off Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork (who was taking his first snaps in four weeks) and pushed him to the ground while Rice ran by. Another key part of the play came with Ravens right guard Marshal Yanda pushing inside linebacker Gary Guyton out of the way after initially getting a piece of Wilfork.
“I knew we were going to be able to run,” said McGahee, whose team finished with 234 yards on the ground. “I knew once Ray broke that long run it was going to be a long day for them.”
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