Much of the talk regarding the Baltimore Ravens offense throughout this postseason has been about Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. The Ravens passing attack is incredibly dynamic, but like many quality passing attacks, it is predicated on solid work on the ground.
When we think of the Ravens rushing game, the first name that comes to mind is Ray Rice. The fifth-year running back has become on of the best in the NFL and is coming off a solid regular season in which he rushed for 1,143 yards and nine touchdowns, while also catching 61 passes for 478 yards.
While Rice is a pivotal part of the Ravens offense, the guy the 49ers might end up needing to pay closer attention to on Sunday is backup running back Bernard Pierce. The physical rookie from Temple has been a big part of the Ravens ground success in the postseason, and could bring a style that is a bit more difficult to handle for the 49ers, at least compared to Rice.
Through three playoff games, Ray Rice has rushed 64 times for 247 yards (3.9 ypc) and two touchdowns. Pierce has rushed 27 times for 169 yards (6.3 ypc). Pierce is very much the back-up, but he can be extremely effective in doses. Coming out of Temple, he was viewed as a physical runner, with a little bit of downhill speed.
While it is hard to point to one specific type of player as being a problem in the 49ers losses, they have had their issues with physical runners. The 49ers defense can handle them quite frequently, but they can also struggle at times. Any defense will start to struggle if they got worn down, and that will be one key for the Ravens to get things going on offense. They need to wear down the 49ers defense, whether it be getting physical, running some no-huddle, or some mix of both.
Pierce has been a solid complementary threat alongside Rice, and it is possible he could be looked upon to do a bit more against the 49ers strong rush D.