Backup RBs in the spotlight: Bernard Pierce, Joique Bell star in victories
Despite the presence of guys like Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch, conventional wisdom is that it takes at least two reliable backs to win in the NFL. A couple of teams proved that adage true on Sunday afternoon.
Here’s a look at how some key backup running backs fared in Week 3′s early action:
• Bernard Pierce, Ravens: Pierce hardly set the world ablaze in his first start filling in for an injured Ray Rice, but he was effective enough in the Ravens’ 30-9 win. Pierce carried the ball a career-high 24 times, picking up 65 yards and finding the end zone in the third quarter.
The Ravens’ offense was extremely stagnant in the first half, managing fewer than 70 total yards. They still headed to the break up 17-7, thanks to touchdowns from linebacker Daryl Smith and punt returner Tandon Doss. Pierce and Joe Flacco picked it up just enough in the second half to help bury the Texans.
• Joique Bell, Detroit: The Lions offense stalled last week after Reggie Bush suffered a groin injury. Bell helped prevent a repeat failure Sunday. The journeyman back, who spent time with five franchises in three years before heading to Detroit, rushed for 63 yards and caught four passes for 69 yards. He got the Lions on the scoreboard in the first quarter, too, breaking several tackles and bowling his way across the goal line from 12 yards out.
Bell played almost the entire game for Detroit, with rookie Theo Riddick (one catch for eight yards; two carries for minus-two yards) spelling him on a few occasions. Nowhere to be seen was Mikel Leshoure. The Lions activated him Sunday with Bush out of the lineup, then kept him glued to the bench.
• Brandon Bolden, New England: Bolden, the backup to Stevan Ridley, did not have a lot of touches in New England’s 23-3 win over the Buccaneers, but he made them count. Tom Brady threw to him on the first play from scrimmage for a 12-yard completion, and Bolden wound up with 100 total yards on just eight combined attempts (five rushes, three receptions).
Bolden’s most impressive play came early in the third quarter, when he took a handoff from Brady and slipped through a small gap for a 42-yard run. It was the longest play of Bolden’s career.
• Johnathan Franklin, Green Bay: The Packers’ rookie was on his way to a breakout performance after starter James Starks left with an injury. (Fellow rookie Eddie Lacy sat out the game due to the concussion he sustained last week.) Franklin took over early in the third quarter and promptly helped the Packers get into the end zone, scoring from two yards out after a seven-yard reception.
Franklin finished the afternoon with 103 yards rushing and another 23 receiving. Unfortunately for he and the Packers, the play Franklin will remember most from this game worked in Cincinnati’s favor. With the Packers trying to run out the clock, up by three with four minutes left, Franklin fumbled on a 4th-and-1. The Bengals scooped it up (twice) and returned it for the eventual game-winning TD.
• Gio Bernard, Cincinnati: Bernard qualifies as the Bengals’ No. 2 back only because of the official depth chart — since last week’s win over Pittsburgh, he has started to usurp BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ role as the top option. Cincinnati’s rookie followed up his impressive performance against Pittsburgh with another strong showing Sunday. Bernard scored the game’s first TD (Green-Ellis scored the second) and led Cincinnati with 50 yards rushing. He also finished second on the team at 49 yards receiving.
• Khiry Robinson, Saints: Just a quick mention for Robinson, who helped run out the clock in New Orleans’ win with 38 yards on four carries late. With trade rumors swirling around Mark Ingram (zero carries Sunday), Robinson could be in line for more of a role moving forward.