Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce: The 2012 Breakdown

USA TODAY Sports

The success of the Ravens offense in 2013 could come down to the success of their two headed monster at running back.

One of the keys to the Ravens offense this year will certainly be the two headed monster at running back. Ray Rice is a Pro Bowl caliber back and his partner in crime, Bernard Pierce could be headed that way. The two complement each other nicely, as Rice is a smaller, shiftier back, where Bernard Pierce is more of a north and south runner. The offense thrived last year when they were both involved. Rice is obviously the workhorse and possibly the Ravens most talented offensive player, but Pierce could provide a much needed change of pace in the offense if the Ravens use him correctly. Below is the breakdown of carries and yards in the regular season last year.

Game Result Total Pierce Rice Percent/Rice Total Pierce Rice Percent/Rice
20120910_CIN@BAL Win 14 4 10 71.43% 87 19 68 78.16%
20120916_BAL@PHI Loss 19 3 16 84.21% 103 4 99 96.12%
20120923_NE@BAL Win 24 4 20 83.33% 128 17 101 78.91%
20120927_CLE@BAL Win 24 6 18 75.00% 97 48 49 50.52%
20121007_BAL@KC Win 19 2 17 89.47% 115 13 102 88.70%
20121014_DAL@BAL Win 20 4 16 80.00% 84 21 63 75.00%
20121021_BAL@HOU Loss 9 0 9 100.00% 42 0 42 100.00%
20121104_BAL@CLE Win 32 7 25 78.13% 124 26 98 79.03%
20121111_OAK@BAL Win 23 10 13 56.52% 53 23 35 66.04%
20121118_BAL@PIT Win 22 2 20 90.91% 48 8 40 83.33%
20121125_BAL@SD Win 31 9 22 70.97% 131 34 97 74.05%
20121202_PIT@BAL Loss 20 8 12 60.00% 112 34 78 69.64%
20121209_BAL@WAS Loss 29 8 21 72.41% 174 53 121 69.54%
20121216_DEN@BAL Loss 17 5 12 70.59% 71 20 51 71.83%
20121223_NYG@BAL Win 38 14 24 63.16% 230 123 107 46.52%
20121230_BAL@CIN Loss 25 22 3 12.00% 94 89 5 5.32%

As the season went on, I noticed that the offense seemed to play well when Pierce got the ball more. Did the Ravens offense perform better when Pierce got more touches or did he get more touches because the Ravens were winning and he is the backup? I am under the assumption that he was helping the Ravens to be more effective. Pierce got the ball the least amount in games against Houston, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Pittsburgh (away). These were three of the four worst offensive performances of the year, by far. He carried far more of the load in games such as Washington (good offensive performance despite losing), New York and Oakland.

Another thing I noticed about the stats with Rice and Pierce is that Bernard starts to get the call more when the second half starts. The below table shows the yard per carry and the percentage of carries and yards per quarter from Ray Rice’s point of view:

Quarter Pierce YPC Rice YPC Percent of Carries Percent of Yards
1st Quarter 4.53846 4.876712 73.74% 75.11%
2nd Quarter 4.66667 5.063492 70.00% 71.69%
3rd Quarter 5.51613 4.555556 67.02% 62.66%
4th Quarter 5.41667 3.132075 68.83% 56.08%

Rice gets the ball almost 3/4th of the time in the first frame, account for over 75% of the yards gained between the two of them. As the game goes on, Bernard Pierce gets more of the share. The percentage of carries for Rice dips below 70% and the percentage of yards gained even drops below 60%.

Possibly the most staggering statistic is the yard per carry in each of the quarters. Rice’s strongest quarter is the 2nd and the only quarter where he average over five yards per carry. As for Pierce, his numbers jumped coming out of the locker room in the second half. He averaged over five yards per carry in both the 3rd and 4th quarter.

The Ravens hope these numbers are a sign of things to come. Ray Rice should certainly get the majority of the touches, but handing things over to Bernard Pierce in the second half might not be a bad idea. He is a straight forward runner who can do a lot of damage against tired defenses. Many teams have been success at running two and even three back platoons. Rice will get most of the carries this year, but is thunder and lightning approach where the Ravens are headed?

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