Bernard Pierce was so excited he didn't know exactly what to do.
The rookie running back had just scored his first career touchdown, giving the Ravens a 14-0 lead over the Cleveland Browns. He crossed the goal line and then out of instinct flipped the ball to the official before realizing he just tossed away a prized possession.
"I threw the ball to the ref and I was like, 'Whoa hold up, can I get that ball back?'" Pierce said after the game. "I just threw it to him not even thinking."
Pierce did get the ball back and now has to find a good place for it.
Finding the end zone is nothing new for the third-round pick, who scored 27 touchdowns last season and 53 times during his career at Temple. But the end zone had been elusive for the backup running back through the first half of the season, who was eager to break that trend.
"It felt good and it was a long time coming," Pierce said. "I was overly excited."
The touchdown gave Pierce a sense of confidence that he is taking the necessary steps in his young career, and assured him that he's "going to be alright in this league."
"I just need to keep building on top of what I've already been doing and hopefully the carries continue to come," Pierce said. "Confidence is definitely growing."
Pierce now has 30 carries for 148 yards this season in limited work behind Ray Rice. He has averaged less than four carries per game, but the seven rushes in Sunday's win over Cleveland was a new career high.
As the Ravens head into the final months of the regular season, where cold weather often forces AFC North offenses to pound the ball on the ground, Pierce will likely be a factor down the stretch.
Pierce is showing strides in his game, and he is learning how to hit the hole in the Ravens' stretch-zone running scheme. He says the biggest difference now is his understanding of the game.
"I'm still trying to get a lot more game reps and I'm starting to be able to dissect defenses and truly be able to understand the game now," Pierce said. "It's not just X's and O's anymore because you have to figure out where the safety is at, how the linebackers are going to play, so it's a lot more than people think."
With the first touchdown under his belt, Pierce said that he's not developing any increased expectations for the second half of the season, and is simply focused on playing his role within the offense.
"I don't have any expectations for myself," Pierce said. "It's just contribute to my team."