Last year, when the Ravens found themselves in goal-to-go situations, more often than not, they turned to running back Willis McGahee if they wanted to pound the ball in on the ground.
McGahee racked up 12 rushing touchdowns on the season, many of which came if the Ravens needed a tough yard or two in their goal line offense.
On the Ravens' opening drive Sunday against the Broncos, McGahee failed to earn that one yard on the goal line on back-to-back plays, causing the Ravens to turn to a play action pass to defensive tackle Haloti Ngata on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line.
Even typing that sentence brings back bad memories.
Throughout the remainder of the game, when the Ravens had the ball in goal-to-go situations, McGahee was nowhere to be seen.
Fullback Le'Ron McClain got a few carries, quarterback Joe Flacco scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak, and Ray Rice, who so often was replaced by McGahee when the Ravens got inside the five-yard line last year, stayed in the huddle in those situations on Sunday, and racked up two one-yard TD runs on the day.
So, what does this mean for the Ravens' goal line strategy this year? Will the 5-8, 212 pound Rice get more opportunities to grind out the tough yards, rack up some extra touchdowns and make his fantasy owners happy?
"I don't think we ever felt like Ray couldn't do it," head coach John Harbaugh said yesterday. "We just had Willis, [who] had such a hot hand, and Willis is so good at it. But, all three of those guys can carry the ball. Joe carried the ball [on the goal line], didn't he? He scored a touchdown, right?
"But I think all three of those guys can carry the ball on the goal line. So, Willis isn't going to want to hear that we're going to spread it out more, so I really don't know what we'll do, but I think they can all do it."
The fact is, Harbaugh is right - the Ravens have three quality backs which can work along the goal line. McGahee proved he can play that role last year, McClain rushed for 10 touchdowns in 2008 and is tough to stop in short yardage, and Rice is tougher than some people think when he runs between the tackles.
I'll put this one to all of you - how do you want to see the goal line carries distributed?
Do you like McGahee in that role and think he's the best option to earn a tough yard? Would you like to see the 260 pound McClain get more opportunities to pound the ball in? Or are you of the mind that Rice could handle the job himself and doesn't need to be taken out once the Ravens get inside an opponent's five-yard line?