After tallying 532 yards during the regular season as merely the rookie back who spelled Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce really burst onto the scene in the postseason. It’s fair to muse whether the Baltimore Ravens could’ve achieved Super Bowl glory without him.
Pierce improved his yards per carry from 4.9 to 5.2 and notched 202 yards in those four postseason games, two of which saw Pierce hit double-digit carries. To put this in perspective, Pierce only did this twice between Week 1 and Week 16. Rice had taken a beating all year and there were some cold-weather January games in Foxboro, Mass., and Denver, meaning Pierce’s ability to bring fresh legs and power were absolutely critical when Rice needed a breather. Now the Ravens are ready to take the next step with this bruising run attack, so you can officially call it a tandem.
I could see new run coordinator Juan Castillo coaching up Pierce in the ways of pass blocking too, where Rice was vastly superior last year. This could help keep teams off balance if Pierce and Rice are both excellent in this regard. It will also be interesting to see if they hit the field simultaneously often during Ravens camp after the franchise cut fullback Vonta Leach.
“I want to be that tandem that people are scared to go up against,” Pierce said, via the team website. “I want to be that one-two punch that everybody is talking about.”
Pro Football Focus noted that Pierce gained more after contact than Rice last year, but I’ll factor in Rice’s volume of snaps and pass-blocking situations into stamina before saying Pierce is a better runner. Still, this was an interesting opinion and another reason B-more has arguably the league’s best tailback duo.
“Pierce averaged 1.12 more yards after contact per carry than Rice,” wrote PFF’s Gordon McGuinness. “Simply put, he did more than Rice beyond the help of their offensive line and, all in all, was a better pure runner. The problem for Pierce is that he needs to work on the other aspects of his game and improve enough that the Ravens can trust him on the field regardless of the situation. That would allow him to see even more touches offensively and grow into a much bigger part of the Ravens’ offense.”