Ravens’ last stand the key to finishing off 49ers

NEW ORLEANS - Joe Flacco might’ve had the individual performance to warrant Super Bowl MVP, but the Ravens’ defensive stand in the final minutes ultimately sealed the victory.

An exhausted Baltimore defense let the 49ers drive from their own 20 all the way to the Ravens’ 7 for first-and-goal with 2:39 to go.

After that, the Ravens permitted just two yards on LaMichael James’ first-down run.

The Ravens stoned San Francisco on the next three snaps. Cornerback Corey Graham arrived in time to break up a pass to Michael Crabtree on second down. Cornerback Jimmy Smith covered Crabtree on an incomplete pass in that direction on third down.

And then safety Ed Reed and Smith essentially wrapped the win. Smith jostled with Crabtree into the end zone on fourth down and Reed covered, forcing Colin Kaepernick to overthrow his top wideout with 1:50 on the clock.

“I knew it was going there,” Reed said. “We called an all-out blitz. As you see on the tape, I didn’t go because I wanted to make sure I had eyes on the quarterback just in case he took off with it. Once he gave Crabtree that signal, I had a feeling it was going over there. Jimmy Smith did a great job. I didn’t need any help.

“I just wanted to discourage the throw. He threw it too far out of bounds. My heart went to beating again because there wasn’t a lot of time left on the clock. Thank goodness they didn’t have two timeouts because it would have been a different ballgame.”

Linebacker Terrell Suggs said the Ravens’ goal in those moments was to take the run away from Kaepernick, who finished with 62 rushing yards.

“The kid’s a phenomenal quaraterback, and we weren’t going to let him bring it in there,” Suggs said. “We were going to make him do it with his arm. He’s a phenomenal quarterback, and he proved that he could make some plays with his arm, and he made some throws and he had some runs.”

Linebacker Ray Lewis was pleased to see the way the Ravens came together at the end.

“You know, honestly, the most exciting thing ever was the conversations that we were having at the goal line,” Lewis said. “Nobody ever panicked, everybody looked at each other, and there was no panic. When you have that, when your back is against the wall, and they have three more plays at the goal line, and if we all do our jobs, they won’t get in.

“For us to stand up like that, it is just a testament of what we’ve been (through) and how much trust we had all year with each other. To me, that was one of the most amazing goal-line stands I’ve ever been a part of in my career. What better way to do it than on the Super Bowl stage?”

Coach John Harbaugh thought it made for a fitting end to Lewis’ career.

“The final series of Ray Lewis’ career was a goal-line stand to win the Lombardi Trophy,” Harbaugh said. “Ray said on the podium, ‘How could it be any other way than that?’

“It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t pretty, but it was us, and that’s who we are.”