The Ravens thought highly of running back Bernard Pierce when they drafted him in the third round out of Temple.
But it was tough to expect then that he'd end up competing with franchise running back Ray Rice for carries by the end of the season.
"We liked him a lot," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "But I don't think we thought he'd be this good of a player."
Pierce did, however.
"I always thought that I could help out," Pierce said. "I always thought that I could contribute in any way possible to help this team out and become a better player along the way."
Pierce has come on strong down the stretch, giving the Ravens a stellar one-two punch out of the backfield. He's an explosive running back with good power that fits perfectly in the team's running scheme. And he'll likely figure to be a big part of the Ravens' offensive gameplan for Super Bowl XLVII.
"I call him a poor man's Adrian Peterson," Running Backs Coach Wilbert Montgomery said. "He's better than Ray was when Ray was a rookie. He brings more power. He brings more pizzazz. He brings more explosion. Ray was a guy that could make you miss and make big plays. BP is a guy that can wear you down and make big plays. BP is a guy that gets stronger as the game goes on."
Rice has still shouldered the bulk of the ball carrying duties in the postseason, rushing 64 times compared to Pierce's 27 carries.
But when Pierce has been in the game, he's shown big play potential and averaged 6.3 yards per carry compared to 3.9 for Rice.
"We're very blessed and we're lucky to have these guys," Harbaugh said. "Bernard Pierce has just been a guy that's lit it up for us this year. Their two styles kind of contrast perfectly. They're different kinds of running backs."
The challenge for the coaching staff is to determine how they split up the carries. Rice is still the starting back, but Pierce's emergence has him pushing for opportunities to get on the field.
"It's kind of like, 'How do you manage these two guys?'" Montgomery said. "It's hard to take Ray off the field."
"Right now, Ray is at a good point. It's about the team. That's what we've been selling. We need both of those guys to play almost equal time right now so we can get this win. That's all we're looking for are those wins. Ray understands that."
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