National Football League
                  === Super Bowl XLVII: Lewis' last stand ===
 By John McMullen, NFL Editor
 (Sports Network) - This may not be your father's Baltimore Ravens defense but
 it's sure starting to look like your older brother's.
 Depleted by injuries for much of the season, the Ravens' traditionally strong
 defensive unit had a down year at least by its standards, finishing 17th in
 the NFL by allowing 350.9 yards per game, the franchise's worst showing on
 that side of the ball since 2002.
 But as the year progressed, so too did the defense. Over the final six games
 of the regular season, Baltimore allowed the NFL's fourth-fewest yards per
 game, yielding 299.0 per.
 Led by Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed and All-Star defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, the
 Ravens, permitted 21.5 points per game, the league's 12th-best mark, and the
 Ravens' red zone defense was as stout as usual, surrendering a 43.4 percent
 touchdown mark inside the 20 -- the NFL's second-best figure.
 Things really started to pick up in the postseason, though, with the return of
 four key defensive starters from injury: star middle linebacker Ray Lewis, his
 running mate behind the line, Dannell Ellerbe, safety Bernard Pollard and the
 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, elite pass rusher Terrell Suggs.
 The fact that Lewis, the heart and soul of defensive coordinator Dean Pees'
 defense, has announced his retirement at season's end, has only upped the
 intensity of the unit.
 Lewis, a seven-time All-Pro, missed 10 games this season with a torn triceps,
 but has turned it on since returning for the postseason. In Baltimore's three
 playoff games, Lewis has amassed 44 total tackles (25 solo), ranking as the
 NFL's second most in a single postseason dating back to the 2000 campaign,
 when he earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP honors.
 "His leadership, obviously, is really important for us," Ravens coach John
 Harbaugh said. "His leadership off the field and understanding how to approach
 a game like this is big for our younger guys. Also, as a football player, he
 has played really well. He's played just like he's always played."
 It's been a long and often surreal ride for Lewis -- once indicted for murder
 and now regarded as one of the faces of the NFL.
 During the pregame festivities before the Ravens' Wild Card Weekend win over
 Indianapolis. Lewis' last game in Baltimore, he was almost a one-man receiving
 line, accepting well-wishes from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Ravens owner
 Steve Bisciotti, along with his teammates and children
 Lewis, who is bound for Canton as the leader of one of most consistent and
 ferocious defensive units of this generation, believes his rest due to injury,
 while unwelcome, has actually helped in the long run.
 "My mind is probably as sharp as it is going to be," Lewis said. "I've always
 said that anytime you can give your body a true rest -- not just your body,
 anytime you can give your mind a certain rest from the game and from the every
 week wear and tear -- when you come back you come back just as fresh as ever.
 For me right now, I feel fresh. My mind is fresh, my body is fresh and I'm
 just excited to really be able to end this thing up the right way."
 Lewis is so focused he asked to have the Lombardi Trophy removed from the
 Ravens' CBS pre-game television shoot.
 "You see (the trophy here and) everybody wants to have you take pictures with
 it," Lewis said. "Like I told my team, don't ever take pictures with nothing
 that's not yours, nothing that you haven't earned. When we hold that Lombardi,
 whoever holds that Lombardi next Sunday, you've earned it when you touch it."
 For Lewis, there's only one right way to go out -- by cementing his legacy
 with a second Super Bowl championship.
 "Honestly, outside of putting my head in the playbook and really just studying
 San Fran, I haven't really thought about anything else. It's going to be a
 great day -- period -- no matter what happens," Lewis said. "And that's kind
 of the way I've approached it. The real prize is actually going and winning
 the Super Bowl. It's great to get there, don't get me wrong, but to win it is
 something special."
 Below is a capsule look at the defense of the Baltimore Ravens:
 DEFENSIVE LINE: The Baltimore and San Francisco defenses are similar. Both use
 a 3-4 scheme with one stalwart on the defensive line and a linebacking corps
 filled with playmakers. For the Ravens the big dog on the line is Ngata, a
 tremendously strong player who engulfs blockers.
 Ngata teams with nose tackle Terrence Cody, a difference maker with limited
 snaps and Pernell McPhee, a solid if unspectacular edge player. Ma'ake
 Kemoeatu also gets significant repetitions inside and is just a tad behind
 Cody as a run stuffer.
 "We are really pretty young, expect for those two guys," defensive coordinator
 Pees said when discussing Ngata and Kemoeatu. "One thing they bring is in the
 classroom is the experience of how to be a pro, how to study, how to watch
 film, how to do all those things, plus that -- Then you add onto that their
 physical ability. They're two big guys that can kind of hold forth in there.
 They have done a great job. I'd say it is a combination of both of those
 LINEBACKERS: Lewis belongs on the Mount Rushmore of linebackers. Although not
 the player he once was, the leadership he brings to the field had been
 sorely lacking from the Baltimore defense. His running mate inside is the
 underrated Ellerbe, who was second on the team in tackles this season and can
 create havoc with his penetration skills.
 Suggs is the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, who missed the first six
 games of the season after tearing his Achilles in the offseason and  has also
 struggled with a biceps injury, He's not the same explosive guy who has 84 1/2
 sacks since entering the NFL in 2003 but Suggs is still more than capable of
 contributing, although his biceps could make it difficult to hold the edge,
 especially in the read-option.
 Rookie Courtney Upshaw brings youth and explosion to the unit while Paul
 Kruger has developed into a more than solid situational pass rusher, amassing
 a career- best and team-high nine sacks, 7 1/2 of which came in the Ravens'
 final eight games.
 CORNERBACKS: It took quite awhile before Baltimore recovered from the loss of
 its best corner Lardarius Webb to injury (ACL). Former first round pick Jimmy
 Smith simply hasn't developed but the unheralded duo of Corey Graham and Cary
 Williams have combined to settle things down on the outside. Neither player is
 going to conjure up visions of a shutdown corner but they've done their part.
 "One unit. Through all our ups and down, we've stuck together," Pees said when
 talked about his corners. "We always believed, and we kept our eyes on the
 prize, and that's what we just kept doing."
 SAFETIES: Reed, a Louisiana native and the eight-time All-Pro, would love to
 garner his first Super Bowl crown in the Bayou. Reed has 61 career picks in
 his 11 pro seasons, including 4 thefts for 78 return yards and a TD during the
 2012 campaign.
 "Going home. I'm speechless when it comes to talking about going home for this
 Super Bowl," Reed said. "It's amazing to me. I just give everything to God on
 that one. This is just amazing. Everybody doesn't get this chance to even play
 in the Super Bowl, win the Super Bowl. It's just amazing to me. I'm just
 soaking it up, just really enjoying it -- ever minute, every second."
 Reed doesn't have the wheels he once had but still has the football smarts to
 make things happen. Matching up with Vernon Davis could be a problem, however.
 "He's a receiver to me," Reed said.  "(He's a) 4.3-4.4 (40-yard dash) guy.
 That size --  He's definitely a threat that you've got to know where he is at
 all times. So, you've got to watch the guy at all times. He might not have
 been as much as a threat with [Colin] Kaepernick in there, but he's always a
 Reed's running mate, Bernard Pollard, is a big hitter and intimidator. The AFC
 Championship Game swung dramatically in Baltimore's favor when Pollard blew up
 Pats running back Stevan Ridley with a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit that
 knocked Ridley cold before he hit the ground, causing a fumble. Like most
 safeties who bring the wood, however, Pollard struggles in man-to-man
 01/28 15:51:36 ET