Stats & Info: Bernard Pierce

Ravens ground game soars under Caldwell

January, 26, 2013
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesThe Ravens are headed to the second Super Bowl in franchise history, and the switch to Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator was one of the keys.
Following a Week 14 loss to the Washington Redskins, the Baltimore Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell.

It's a move that appears to have paid off, as the offense averaged 30 points per game during a playoff run that pushed the Ravens to New Orleans for the franchise's second Super Bowl.

Power Football
The biggest change for the Ravens has been an emphasis on the running game under Caldwell. In its first 13 games, Baltimore ran 40 percent of the time, right at the league average.

During the last three weeks of the regular season and the playoffs, the Ravens have run 49 percent of the time.

The contrast has been even greater on first down. The Ravens have used designed rushes on 61 percent of their first down plays under Caldwell, compared to less than half the time under Cameron this season.

The overall impact has been an increase of 10 carries and 46.5 yards per game on the ground. The new emphasis hasn’t limited Baltimore’s passing attack. The Ravens threw for 236 yards per game before the change and have averaged 251 passing yards per game in their last six games.

The biggest beneficiary of the change has been rookie Bernard Pierce. In Caldwell’s six games, he has been on the field for almost a third of Baltimore’s snaps. In the first 13 games, he was on the field 17 percent of the time.

In three weeks spanning the end of the regular season and Wild Card round, he ran for 315 yards and topped the 100-yard mark twice. That topped the 300 yards he ran for in 13 weeks under Cameron.

Taking the Pressure Off Flacco
Forcing the opposition to focus on the Ravens’ rushing attack has helped the passing game. After throwing one interception in Caldwell’s first game, Joe Flacco has 10 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last five games. He had 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions under Cameron.

Under Caldwell, Flacco is averaging 9.1 yards per attempt and has thrown eight touchdowns without an interception when facing four or fewer rushers. That’s nearly two more yards per attempt than under Cameron, when he had 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Flacco ranks sixth in the league with an 83.7 Total QBR against four or fewer rushers over his last six games. He posted a 60.8 QBR in those situations during the first 13 games of the season, ranking 20th.

This seems to have opened up a new dimension to the Ravens passing attack -- the deep ball. Under Cameron, he completed just over a third of his passes more than 20 yards downfield. That number is above 50 percent under Caldwell.

Flacco’s average target depth has been 12.4 yards downfield this postseason, nearly three yards higher than his regular season average of 9.5 yards. This season, the two games he has thrown for the longest average pass depth have come in the last two playoff games.

USA TODAY SportsJoe Flacco (left) leads the Ravens against Peyton Manning (right) and the Broncos.
The Divisional round gets underway on Saturday at 4:30 ET when the Denver Broncos, the top seed in the AFC, host the Baltimore Ravens, who got past the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round.

Here are eight notes, nuggets and numbers you need to know heading into the matchup:

Final Four Repeat
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, all four remaining AFC teams reached the Divisional round last season, the first time ever the same teams were the “Final Four” in a conference in back-to-back seasons.

Ravens’ Recent Playoff Success
The Ravens have won a playoff game in each of the past five seasons, just the sixth team in NFL history to pull off that feat. In the process, Joe Flacco became the first quarterback ever to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons.

Flacco Likes the Road
Flacco is 4-4 on the road in eight playoff starts. Eli Manning (five) is the only starting quarterback with more road wins in the postseason.

QBR Leader
Flacco led all quarterbacks last weekend with a Total QBR of 89.5, nearly double his regular-season QBR of 46.8. That was by far the largest increase in Total QBR of the eight quarterbacks who started last weekend.

Rookie Running Wild
Bernard Pierce ran for 103 yards last week, the second Ravens rookie with 100 rushing yards in a playoff game. Jamal Lewis did it twice in the 2000 playoffs, the year the Ravens won their only Super Bowl title.

Peyton Manning
Postseason Veteran
Peyton Manning is making his 12th postseason appearance, tied with Brett Favre for the most in NFL history by a starting quarterback.

Manning and Broncos Going Streaking
Manning has won nine straight starts against the Ravens, including the playoffs. That’s the second-longest active winning streak by a quarterback over a particular opponent. Coincidentally, Flacco has won 10 straight against the Cleveland Browns, the only active streak longer than Manning’s over the Ravens.

The Broncos have won 11 straight games, the longest active win streak in the NFL and their longest since opening the 1998 season 13-0. They won the Super Bowl that season.

Home Field Advantage
The Broncos are 13-3 all-time at home in the playoffs, which is tied for the second-best home playoff record (minimum of five games).

Flacco, Ravens show Colts how it's done

January, 6, 2013

AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyJoe Flacco had a day to celebrate on Sunday.

The experience of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco won out over the performance of an up-and-coming rookie.

The Ravens became the sixth team in NFL history to win a playoff game in five straight seasons and improved to 6-1 all time in the wild-card playoffs.

Ray Lewis got much of the attention for his team-high 13 tackles, but Flacco and the Ravens' offense also played a huge role.

Let’s take a look at some of the statistical highlights.

Flacco’s big day
Flacco completed 12 passes but managed 282 passing yards.

The only other quarterback since 1960 to have at least as many yards on that few completions in a postseason game was Tim Tebow for the Denver Broncos against the Pittsburgh Steelers last season.

Flacco was 5-of-8 passing at least 15 yards downfield Sunday, including 4-of-5 targeting Anquan Boldin.

Anquan Boldin set a Ravens team playoff record with his 145 receiving yards. He had two catches on throws that traveled 31 yards or more in the air, matching the number he had in the entire regular season.

Flacco finished second in the NFL behind Drew Brees with 10 such completions in the regular season. He was 2-for-2 on such throws Sunday after completing only 10 of 39 in the regular season.

Ravens were tough on Luck
Andrew Luck set a postseason single-game rookie record for pass attempts and had the most passing yards by a rookie in a playoff game since Sammy Baugh in 1937.

But the Ravens' aggressive pass rush caused Luck a lot of trouble. He was 5-for-14 for 56 yards when the Ravens sent five or more pass-rushers at him. He was also sacked three times by that rush.

Luck had a fumble and an interception, snapping a streak of three games without a turnover.

Colts receivers didn’t help him out. They registered seven dropped passes by our video review, tied for the most by any team in a game this season.

Luck finished with a 27.2 Total QBR, his third-lowest in any game this season.

Pierce picks up for Rice
With teammate Ray Rice fumbling twice (once more than he did in the entire regular season), Bernard Pierce picked him up with a terrific day -- 103 rushing yards on 13 carries, the first 100-yard-rushing game by a Ravens player in postseason play since Jamal Lewis had a pair in 2000.

Pierce had 46 yards after contact. His 3.54 yards after contact per rush average was the best of any Raven with at least 10 rushes in a game since Willis McGahee averaged 5.8 in Week 17 of 2009.

Pierce averaged 2.1 yards after contact on runs in the regular season. With Adrian Peterson and the Vikings having been eliminated, Pierce’s average ranks best among those still in the postseason.

Looking ahead
The Ravens will get a second look at the Broncos, and Flacco will hope for a better performance than he had against them in Week 15.

In a 34-17 loss that day, Flacco posted an 0.4 Total QBR, tied for the second-worst single-game QBR by a quarterback in a game this season.

Rick Osentoski/US Presswire
Denard Robinson ran for 200 yards and 3 TDs as Michigan starts 4-0 for the 2nd straight season.

The Michigan Wolverines improved to 4-0 for the third straight season after posting a 28-7 win over the San Diego State Aztecs Saturday afternoon. It's Michigan's 13th straight win in September and 12th straight regular-season non-conference win.

The Wolverines jumped out on top 21-0 at halftime, thanks to three first-half rushing touchdowns by Denard Robinson, who tied his career high for a single game with those three rushing scores. He also rushed for 200 yards -- the third time in his career he's topped the 200-yard mark and the first time he's done it at home.

Last season, Robinson and Michigan also got off to hot starts, but after beginning 4-0, the Wolverines went 3-6 in its final nine games.

With those 200 rushing yards, Robinson moved past Illinois' Juice Williams and into second place on the all-time rushing list by a QB among Big Ten teams. Robinson’s 2,605 rush yards trails only former Indiana Hoosiers QB Antwann Randle El (3,895).

The Temple Owls got its first ever win against an ACC team, defeating the Maryland Terrapins 38-7. Temple had been 0-12 against ACC schools, with the last seven losses coming since 2004, with each of them being by at least three touchdowns (note: the Owls have beaten Boston College and Virginia Tech, but those schools were in the Big East then).

It's been a long time since Temple had a big win like this. The last time Temple beat a BCS-AQ team by at least 31 points was in 2000 when they beat the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 48-14. However, both schools were members of the Big East at the time. The Owls last win against a BCS-AQ team in non-conference play by at least 31 points was October 5, 1934, a 40-6 win against the Texas A&M Aggies.

Temple RB Bernard Pierce set a school with five rushing touchdowns – with four coming in the first half. He's the only player to run for five touchdowns against a FBS opponent this season. Temple led the Penn State Nittany Lions for almost the whole game last week and would be 4-0 if it held on to win. Penn State scored the go-ahead points with 2:42 left.

In other notable early action, Georgia Tech starts 4-0 for the first time since 1990 – the year they went 11-0-1 under Bobby Ross and shared the national title with Colorado - after posting a 35-28 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Yellow Jackets were held to their lowest yardage total of the season (496) but have still topped 400 yards in every game this year.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish were held to under 20 points for the first time this season, but defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers for the second straight year, this time 15-12. Tyler Eifert caught a career-high eight passes, including the game-winning TD. Michael Floyd was held to a season-low four catches for 27 yards for Notre Dame. After catching more than 10 passes in each of the first two games this season, Floyd now has 10 total receptions in the last two games.