Rice: Pats defense doesn't get enough credit

Rice: Pats defense doesn't get enough credit
January 16, 2013, 9:15 pm
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Everyone knows about Tom Brady and the Patriots' high-powered offense. They scored a league-best 557 points this season, averaged a league-high 427 yards a game and set an NFL record with 444 first downs.

The defense, on the other hand, ranked 25th overall. The much-maligned pass defense ranked 29th.

The prevailing wisdom is that the Patriots defense is suspect but has been routinely bailed out by an offense that scores nearly 35 points a game.

Ravens running back Ray Rice, for one, isn't buying it.

"I think ... sometimes because their offense gets so much credit, that their defense gets overlooked," Rice said at a session with the media on Wednesday. "I can go down list by list. Look how they were able to neutralize the Texans last week. They took the run game away from them."

The Patriots routinely take the run game away from teams simply by opening up a big lead; teams aren't likely to do a whole lot of running when down by 17 points or more in the second half.

Last week in the Divisional Round, Houston's Arian Foster finished with 22 carries for 90 yards in the Patriots' 41-28 win.

Rice has had some success against the Patriots, most notably his 83-yard touchdown run in the playoffs in 2009, the second-longest touchdown run in playoff history. Rice has averaged 5.1 yards a carry in five career games against New England, and had 20 carries for 101 yards in the Ravens' 31-30 win over the Patriots earlier this season.

In the AFC Championship Game last season, Rice was held to 67 yards on 21 carries, and he says the yardage is always hard to come by, primarily because of the way Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork wreaks havoc inside.

"Vince Wilfork is a beast. He's a flat-out beast," Rice said. He handles double teams. (If) you block him single-handedly, he bull rushes. The thing that’s great about him is the speed. Some people think that because of his size he isn’t going to be able to move as fast. He moves as quick as any defensive linemen in the league."

After the 5-foot-8 Rice joked, "Who am I call somebody short?" Rice said that the 6-foot-2 Wilfork, "is not the tallest of guys. He knows that, but he is a force in that middle. I’ve always loved battling, going against a guy like that."

Wilfork made life miserable for the Ravens offense in the AFC Championship Game last season, overpowering Matt Birk at times, blowing up the pocket and stuffing the run. He was credited with six tackles, a sack and three tackles for loss.

 Jerod Mayo led the Patriots this season with 184 tackles, including 11 in the Week 3 game between the teams.

Rice said the Patriots have "set the standard on how to win," and he expected nothing other than a tough effort from the Patriots defense.

"That’s a prideful bunch over there," he said. "They are no walk-in-the-park defense. You have to go out there and execute at a high level.”



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