OWINGS MILLS - Grounded by the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, Ray Rice and the Ravens' running game are preparing for another tough matchup in the San Diego Chargers.
The Ravens play the Chargers Sunday, and San Diego's rush defense is ranked third in the NFL.
"We've got to reinvent ourselves a week later," Rice said of the running game. "Obviously, Pittsburgh's front, it's always been tough-sledding against them. ... You can't just run at the Pittsburgh Steelers. And with this week, it's the same kind of deal. Those are big, heavy guys up front. You've got to get them moving, and we've got to try to execute in the run game."
It's been a struggle for Rice and the running game of late. After averaging more than five yards per carry during the Ravens' first five games, Rice is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry during the team's last five games. He has just 75 yards on 33 carries the last two weeks, limited to 35 yards on 13 carries by Oakland a week prior to the lackluster showing against the Steelers.
It won't get any easier this week. Only one of the Chargers' last six opponents has had a ball-carrier exceed 68 yards against San Diego.
The Chargers limited Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie standout Doug Martin to a modest 68 yards on 19 carries two weeks ago, the only team to hold him to less than 135 yards in the Buccaneers' last four games. A week prior, San Diego held Kansas City Chiefs star Jamaal Charles to 39 yards on 12 carries.
The Chargers are yielding just 3.8 yards per carry.
"They have a front seven that really gets after the ball," Baltimore fullback Vonta Leach said. "They really play the run well. They've given up some big runs, but not many. You've got a lot of guys over there that's playing well on the defensive side of the ball."
Athletic third-year middle linebacker Donald Butler leads the Chargers with 67 tackles. Veteran middle linebacker Takeo Spikes is second among San Diego's front seven with 48 tackles.
Rice referred to the 35-year old Spikes, a 15-year NFL veteran, as the Ray Lewis of San Diego's defense.
"When you look at a guy in the middle like Takeo Spikes, who's been doing it for 15 years, he's the ultimate pro," Rice said. "He's got a young linebacker next to him that sort of reminds me of our situation here with a Ray Lewis and a Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe. So, they're tough up front. They get after it."