After Ricky Williams’ retirement last February, the Baltimore Ravens were in need of a physical runner to pair with Ray Rice in their backfield. That’s why the team traded up in the third round of April’s draft to select Temple running back Bernard Pierce.
After a solid regular season campaign, Pierce has run for 169 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry in three playoff games against the Colts, Broncos, and Patriots. Pierce’s timely January production has led Ray Lewis to compare the first-year back to a former Raven who played a key role in Baltimore’s last Super Bowl run 12 seasons ago as rookie ballcarrier.
“We had a young rookie running back who was pretty good to take us to the Super Bowl,” Lewis said to The Baltimore Sun. “And we have another young rookie running back who is pretty good himself to take us to the Super Bowl.”
Jamal Lewis led Baltimore in rushing as a rookie back in 2000 when the Ravens won their only Super Bowl. While Pierce may not have put up Jamal Lewis-type numbers because he split carries with Ray Rice, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome nevertheless echoed Ray Lewis’ assessment of the important role that the rookie has played in Baltimore’s success this postseason.
“We’ve seen in this league now, you need two backs,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said (via The Sun). “…He (Pierce) brings a different dimension. He’s a tackle-breaker, and he’s explosive. He’s a good match to what Ray [Rice] is, and he was there for us to pick in the third round.”
Bernard Pierce and Ray Rice are a formidable backfield tandem, but so are Frank Gore and LaMichael James (drafted in the second round last April) of San Francisco. The duo that’s able to find the most yards on the ground on Super Bowl Sunday could very well determine the outcome of the game.