CHICAGO — — Stuck in neutral throughout the season, the Ravens finally resurrected their running game Sunday.
A bright spot for the Ravens during a 23-20 overtime loss to the Bears at Soldier Field was rushing for a season-high 174 yards on 41 carries.
Three-time Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice regained his old form as he exploited the Bears' vulnerable run defense, rushing for a season-high 131 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries. Rice displayed speed, power and elusiveness unseen since last season when the Ravens won the Super Bowl.
"We're heading in the right direction," Rice said. "I'd love to get the win, but it's just the way that things have been shaking lately. We are getting better. We've shown a lot of drastic improvement in the run game, and that's something we've been criticized for. For us to go out there and do what we did in the run game, that's a positive."
During the first quarter on the Ravens' first drive, Rice bolted to his left for a season-long 47-yard run. Rice ran away from defenders, a rare sight this season after rushing for just 289 yards through nine games.
Rice had a huge hole to run through as left guard A.Q. Shipley delivered a key block. First, he helped center Gino Gradkowski double-team Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea. Then, Shipley peeled off to reach the second level and knock rookie middle linebacker Jon Bostic out of Rice's path.
Rice hardly knew how to react to such a gaping opening.
"Those guys really got the edge sealed," Rice said. "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. They got the job done. All of my success really attributes to the offensive line getting a hat on a hat.
"I did what I needed to do when it came to dealing with the safeties. I got my pads down lower. It's just something that we've been working on."
The Ravens entered the game ranked 30th in rushing offense, averaging just 73.1 yards per game. The Bears aren't known for their run-stopping, entering the game ranked 31st in run defense. So, this game had something of a now-or-never element for the Ravens' offense as far as getting the running game untracked.
Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach plowed cornerback Tim Jennings with a devastating lead block during Rice's 1-yard touchdown run.
"I'm pretty sure I'd rather be talking with a win and negative running yards, I'd be a whole lot happier," Leach said. "I think everybody was on the same page. I guess guys got tired of not being able to run the ball the way we can. The offensive line did a good job of opening up holes."
Rice had averaged just 2.5 yards per carry entering Sunday, ranking last in the NFL. On Sunday, he averaged a season-best 5.2 yards per carry as he doubled his previous rushing average.
"Under the circumstances with the weather, we knew we had to run the ball and we did a good job," Rice said. "We just have to take care of business."
Peppers dominates Ravens
The Ravens struggled mightily to contain Bears star efensive end Julius Peppers.
He repeatedly manhandled blockers, doing most of his damage at the expense of left tackle Eugene Monroe.
Peppers finished with a game-high 11 tackles, including eight solo tackles and four for losses as he recorded two sacks.
"I played him before, and he presents a unique challenge," Monroe said. "It was a battle all day long."
Regardless of whether Peppers bull-rushed Monroe or beat him around the edge, Peppers repeatedly pressured quarterback Joe Flacco, who was sacked three times and hit nine times by the Bears.
"Peppers does a good job of mixing it up," Monroe said. "When you play against a guy like that with the ability to press upfield, you have to be ready for all of it."
Ngata, Brown sidelined
Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata and wide receiver Marlon Brown were inactive because of knee injuries.
Ngata declined an interview request after the game, but wasn't limping noticeably.
Ngata didn't practice all week because of a left knee injury suffered against the Cincinnati Bengals and was listed as questionable. He attempted to practice Friday, but was unable to go.
"I'm not sure how to answer that," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said when asked how close Ngata was to playing.
The Ravens started Terrence Cody at nose tackle with Ngata sidelined. Cody had one tackle.
"I think I did a good job," Cody said. "I made some plays out there and disrupted some things. All that matters is because we didn't come out with a win. We hope Haloti's back soon. If he's not, I got to carry the load."
Reserve defensive linemen Brandon Williams and DeAngelo Tyson were both active.
Brown tested his knee during warmups, but didn't appear confident while making cuts. Brown tore his anterior cruciate ligament a year ago playing for Georgia, and the knee still occasionally bothers him.
Brown predicted he'll return Sunday against the New York Jets at M&T Bank Stadium.
"I'll be fine this week," he said. "It's just bruised. I'll be good."