We spent an entire regular season wondering why the Baltimore Ravens didn't take more advantage of having a workhorse back like Ray Rice.
You couldn't say that Saturday, when Rice carried the ball 30 times in the frigid temperatures and high altitude of Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Ravens outlasted the Denver Broncos in a double-overtime classic to move to the AFC Championship Game. It was an experience Rice won't soon forget.
"I'll be honest, it was the toughest football game I've ever played in," Rice said this week on "The Rich Eisen Podcast." "I was coming off that sinus cold with the altitude and the cold air you were breathing, it felt like my chest was caving in. So I'm talking about deep breaths, shorter air, it was truly the most physically demanding football game I've ever played in."
Rice made the most of those carries, finishing with 131 yards and a touchdown.
"Playoffs are all or nothing. You know you don't go for next week. There's guys already sitting at islands, beaches doing what they gotta do thinking, 'All right, I got next year,' " he said. We don't have next year, we have it right now right in front of our faces. When you talk about doing anything it takes, that was last week for me because last week was so physically demanding.
"The altitude, it got me and I'm not afraid to say it but I'm just glad I was out there playing the game and you guys couldn't tell."
That last quote perhaps provides some context why the Ravens are still here. It's hard to say they're a better team than they were a season ago, but there's a sense of urgency with this veteran group that serves as added motivation. It's now or never for every playoff team, but that's especially true with the Ravens.