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Ravens notebook: Rice, Ravens finally get running game going

CHICAGO - After two-plus months of not being able to get much of anything going in the running game, the Ravens finally had an effective day running the ball Sunday against the Bears.
The improvement on the ground didn't lead to a win, but Baltimore did rush for a season-high 172 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per carry.
Prior to Sunday, the Ravens were averaging just 2.8 yards per carry, tied for fewest in the NFL, and they hadn't averaged more than 3.3 yards per carry in any game this season.
"With the weather, we knew had to run the ball, and we did a good job today," Baltimore running back Ray Rice said. "We're heading in the right direction. ... We showed a lot of drastic improvement in the run game today.
"[The run game] is something we've been criticized for. So for us to go out there and do what we did in the run game, that's a positive."
The offensive line in particular was better.
The line has had trouble creating running lanes for Rice and Bernard Pierce this season but paved the way for Rice to rush for 131 yards and a touchdown.
On Baltimore's second play from scrimmage, Rice exploited a crease created by the line and picked up 47 yards down the left sideline. Prior to that run, Rice didn't have a run this year that had gained more than 14 yards.
"I kind of made a joke with the guys on the sideline that I didn't know what to do with a hole that big," Rice said later. "They got the job done. All of my success today really attributes to the O-line getting a hat on a hat."
But Rice also looked probably as good as he has at any point since injuring his hip in Week 2.
He was elusive in the open field and showed a burst that he hadn't in previous games.
The run game did still struggle at times. Pierce had just 18 yards on 10 carries. But Sunday as a whole was a step forward for the run game.
Rice's previous season-high for rushing yards was 74, and he actually picked up more yards on that one run (47 yards) than he had in seven of the previous eight games he had played in.
"We've been taking a lot of heat for the run game," fullback Vonta Leach said, "but it's finally starting to get going."
QUIET GAME: While the running game had its most productive game of the year, the outside linebacker tandem of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil had its most non-impactful.
Neither had a sack. Dumervil had just one quarterback hurry. And combined, the two had just one tackle.
Dumervil also had a costly roughing the passer penalty on a third-and-9 with the Ravens trailing 20-17 midway through the fourth quarter. Bears quarterback Josh McCown threw an incomplete pass on the play. So if not for the penalty, Chicago would have been forced to punt. Instead, the Bears got a first down and were able to run another two-plus minutes off the clock, although Baltimore did end up tying the game anyway.
COSTLY DROPS: Ravens wide receiver Tandon Doss had three catches that picked up first downs Sunday, including two on third down, but he also had two critical drops late.
One was on a third-and-1 at Baltimore's 19-yard line with the Ravens trailing 20-17 midway through the fourth quarter.
The second was in overtime. Doss had an opportunity on a third-and-5 from the Bears' 46-yard line to make a catch that would have given Baltimore a new set of downs and put the Ravens closer to being in range for a Justin Tucker go-ahead field goal attempt.
Not that the catch was an easy one to make since Doss was covered tightly, but he got both hands on the ball and was unable to bring it in.
The Ravens were forced to punt and never got the ball back.
PRESSURED: Baltimore left tackle Eugene Monroe had a tough game in pass protection Sunday.
He allowed three sacks - two to Julius Peppers and one to Cheta Ozougwu on a fourth-and-8 midway through the third quarter.
Matched up largely with Monroe, Peppers had 11 tackles, four tackles for a loss and the two sacks.
He had just 18 tackles and two sacks in Chicago's nine games prior to Sunday.
ON POINT: Tucker connected on both of his field goal attempts Sunday, including a 52-yarder in the first quarter despite inclement weather that forced the game to be delayed almost two hours after the kick.
He also made a 21-yard field goal to tie the game at 20 and force overtime with three seconds left in the fourth quarter.
INJURY REPORT: Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (knee) and wide receiver Marlon Brown (knee) were among the Ravens' inactives Sunday

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