Rice's best chance to prove he's still Rice

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
10:00
AM ET
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- By my count, for the 432nd time, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was asked about his health.

"I feel pretty good," Rice said. "I've been answering that question for the last couple of weeks, and I honestly haven't had a chance to show it."

Rice will get his chance -- and statistically, it will be his best chance -- to prove he's healthy and still a viable runner in the NFL when the Ravens play at Chicago on Sunday. The Bears have the NFL's second-worst run defense, giving up 129.4 yards on the ground per game.

To get a better grip on Chicago's struggles, let's take a look at the last four running backs who have gone against the Bears:
The Bears haven't held a running back under 95 yards rushing since Oct. 6, and this includes playing Jacobs, who hadn't started a game in two years. Over the past four games, starting running backs have averaged 5.9 yards per carry.

In other words, if Rice can't produce against the Bears, it's fair to think he's not going to do so the rest of the year.

Rice is struggling mightily this season, averaging 36.1 yards rushing per game and 2.5 yards per carry. He said this week that he has "no doubt at all" that he'll return to his old form in the second half of the season.

"If I doubted myself, I wouldn't be where I am today. I'm at full strength," said Rice, who injured his hip in Week 2. "The Ravens are going to need me at full strength late in the year. It might be a blessing in disguise that I went through something early."

Rice added, "I know I'm able to make plays. I leave the doubt to the naysayers out there. Like I said, when there's opportunity, you'll definitely see it. We just haven't had the opportunity to show it."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday that Rice's hip injury has affected him this season. He also indicated that the Ravens will give the most carries to the running back who is doing the best in that game, whether it's Rice or backup Bernard Pierce.

"We've always been doing that; that's nothing that's changed," Rice said of the Ravens going with the hotter running back. "I've won a lot of games around here with this team. I helped out with everything that we've done around here, but I can't do it by myself. I'm not that guy. I'm not selfish."

Teammates believe Rice can turn his season around.

"I've still got all the confidence in the world in Ray Rice," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "He's one of the best players in this league, one of the best running backs in this league and we have a lot of success with games when No. 27 has got his hands on the ball. So as long as we stick with that, I think we'll be fine."

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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