OWINGS MILLS - Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice consistently found running lanes within a usually stout New England Patriots defensive line, gashing the Patriots for a 101 yards and a score during the Ravens' 31-30 Week 3 win over the Patriots.
Yards have otherwise been hard to come by for Rice against New England during the last three seasons.
He was limited to just 67 yards on 21 carries in last year's AFC championship game and accumulated only 88 yards on 28 carries during an overtime loss to the Patriots in 2010.
"I think their defense, sometimes because their offense gets so much credit, that their defense gets overlooked," Rice said, later adding, "Their defense, they get up for games like this because they know that we run the football. ... They are no walk-in-the-park defense. You have to go out there and execute at a high level."
The Patriots, led by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jerod Mayo, limited opposing ball-carriers to just 3.9 yards per carry during the season. They limited Houston Texans Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster to just 33 yards on his 11 second half carries amid New England's divisional round win over Foster and the Texans last week.
"Vince [Wilfork] creates a lot of problems in there," Ravens Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach said. "But it's not just Vince. It's their whole line and the linebackers. Everybody's just got to take care of their responsibilities. ... It'll just come down to being a balanced attack.
"I think if we have a balanced attack, and if we can have success [on early downs], we'll be all right."
The Ravens have rushed for an average of 189 yards in their last four games while averaging 4.7 yards per carry.
Rice had 131 yards and a touchdown against the Denver Broncos last week. Rookie running back Bernard Pierce had just 14 yards against the Broncos prior to aggravating a knee injury during the second half, but he rushed for 315 yards in Baltimore's previous three games.
Rice rushed for 1,143 yards and nine scores during the regular season. Pierce ran for 543 yards and one touchdown.
"We've got some confidence in our ability to run the ball right now," Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh said.
NOTE: Pierce (knee) practiced on a limited basis Friday after missing practice Thursday and, as he did earlier in the week, said he expects to play against the Patriots Sunday.
He's officially listed as questionable.
"I feel good," Pierce said. "I feel good. ... I'm just going to go out there and give it everything I've got."