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PLAYOFFS
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              === Ravens survive, hold off 49ers in Super Bowl ===
 
 New  Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - Joe Flacco unequivocally proved he belongs
 with  the  NFL's elite  quarterbacks,  while  John  Harbaugh showed  that  big
 brother indeed knows best.
 
 And  for  Ray Lewis, it  was the ultimate  ending to an absolutely illustrious
 career.
 
 Flacco  delivered a  lights-out performance -- both literally and figuratively
 --  at the  Mercedes-Benz Superdome,  and the  Baltimore Ravens  warded off  a
 furious  comeback  attempt by the  San Francisco 49ers to  hold on for a 34-31
 victory  in  a thrill-packed Super  Bowl XLVII that every  bit lived up to its
 advance billing.
 
 With nearly all of the two-week pregame buildup focused around either Lewis --
 due  to the  iconic linebacker and team leader's retirement announcement prior
 to the playoffs as well as a recent Sports Illustrated story stating he used a
 banned deer antler spray to help recover from a midseason triceps injury -- or
 the  unprecedented head-to-head  clash  of  Harbaugh and  his  sibling Jim  on
 football's  biggest  stage,  it  was  Flacco's  rising  star  that  shone  the
 brightest.
 
 The  ultra-composed  Baltimore field  general threw  three touchdown passes to
 stake  his team to a 21-6 halftime lead it very nearly gave away, and finished
 with  287  yards and  no turnovers  on a  crisp 22-of-33  passing to earn Most
 Valuable  Player honors,  a  place  among the  sport's  upper  echelon at  the
 position  -- and  almost certainly a massive new contract as an impending free
 agent.
 
 Flacco  concluded a  superb four-game  playoff run  with 11  touchdown passes,
 tying  Joe  Montana (1998)  and Kurt  Warner (2008)  for the  most in a single
 postseason,  and zero  interceptions as  the driving  force behind  the Ravens
 capturing their second Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.
 
 He  had  help in  this one, however.  Anquan Boldin hauled  in one of Flacco's
 scoring  strikes  while amassing 104  yards on  six catches, with Jacoby Jones
 adding  a  Super Bowl-record 108-yard  kickoff return score of the second-half
 kickoff  in  addition to  hauling in  a 56-yard  touchdown pass shortly before
 halftime.
 
 Baltimore's  first world title since 2000 didn't come easy, though. Sparked by
 a  terrific  second-half performance  by  young  quarterback Colin  Kaepernick
 and   an  extended  break  caused  by  a  mysterious  34-minute  power  outage
 early  in  the  third quarter,  a  valiant  San  Francisco  squad cut  a  28-6
 deficit  down to  two after Kaepernick's 15-yard touchdown run with just under
 10 minutes left to play pulled the Niners within 31-29.
 
 Inspired  by both  Lewis'  swan song  and the  game's  obvious magnitude,  the
 Baltimore   defense  rose  to  the  occasion  down  the  stretch.  The  Ravens
 thwarted a potential tying two-point conversion attempt following Kaepernick's
 touchdown, then later came up with a pivotal late stop after San Francisco got
 down to the 5-yard line in the final moments.
 
 "How else can you finish that off but with a goal line stand," an elated Lewis
 said  after  the game.  "How else  can you finish  a Super  Bowl off when your
 coordinator trusts you the way he trusts us? And we finished that off. We kept
 them out of the end zone on the 2-yard line. That's championship football."
 
 Kaepernick  overcame  a slow start  to throw for 302  yards and a touchdown to
 Michael  Crabtree while  completing 16-of-28 passes with an interception. Both
 Crabtree and Vernon Davis eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark for the Niners,
 who outgained Baltimore by a 468-367 margin in total offense, while Frank Gore
 added 110 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
 
 Crabtree  compiled 109  yards on five catches and Davis had six grabs totaling
 104 yards for San Francisco, which suffered its first-ever Super Bowl loss and
 came  up just short  in its goal to match the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most
 wins (6) in the Big Game.
 
 "We  want  to handle this with  class and grace," said a noticeably frustrated
 Jim  Harbaugh  afterward. "Had several  opportunities in the game. Didn't play
 our  best game. Our  guys battled back to get back in. We competed and battled
 to win."
 
 The  popularly titled  "HarBowl" came to reality after the up-and-coming 49ers
 fought out of an 17-0 first-half hole to best Atlanta in the NFC Championship,
 and had a similarly shaky beginning against the more-experienced Ravens during
 the beginning stages of this game as well.
 
 San  Francisco displayed some initial nerves by committing two early penalties
 that  helped Baltimore  jump out to a  quick lead it would build sizeably upon
 later on.
 
 An illegal formation infraction wiped out a 20-yard connection from Kaepernick
 to Davis on the first play from scrimmage, with San Francisco ultimately going
 three-and-out  on  its debut  drive  and  the  Ravens starting  near  midfield
 following a 17-yard punt return by Jones.
 
 The  Niners appeared to have held Baltimore to a field goal try on the ensuing
 possession  after Flacco's  third-down pass missed the mark, but San Francisco
 linebacker  Ahmad Brooks  was ruled  offside on  a blitz  attempt to  give the
 Ravens another chance.
 
 Flacco  and  Boldin made the most  of the opportunity, with the latter getting
 behind  San Francisco's  zone and hauling in a dart from the Baltimore signal-
 caller for a 13-yard touchdown less than 4 1/2 minutes into the contest.
 
 Flacco  went  3-of-4 for 41 yards  on the series, including a 20-yard delivery
 to Torrey Smith that placed the Ravens in the red zone.
 
 San  Francisco  would have a response  on its next touch, however, marching 62
 yards  in 12 plays to get into scoring range. The highlight of the sequence, a
 24-yard catch by Davis, produced a 1st-and-goal at the Baltimore eight.
 
 Kaepernick  missed  an open Crabtree for  a would-be touchdown on second down,
 however,  and the Niners were forced to settle for a David Akers 36-yard field
 goal after Baltimore's Paul Kruger sacked Kaepernick for a 10-yard loss on the
 subsequent play.
 
 The  Ravens defense would come up with two more big plays before the half came
 to an end, enabling the AFC champs to further extend their margin.
 
 Courtney  Upshaw stripped  running back LaMichael James at the Baltimore 25 to
 thwart  a  potential scoring chance on  San Francisco's next drive, and Flacco
 flawlessly  executed a  10-play,  75-yard  jaunt that  again  culminated in  a
 touchdown.
 
 The  poised quarterback had a pair of key completions to tight end Ed Dickson,
 the  first resulting  in a 23-yard gain  and the other putting the ball at the
 San  Francisco four  after a  15-yard face  mask penalty  on the  49ers' Donte
 Whitner.
 
 Two  plays  later, Flacco  fired a 1-yard  bullet to Dennis  Pitta to give the
 Ravens a 14-3 advantage just past the midway mark of the second quarter.
 
 Ed  Reed  intercepted Kaepernick  at the  San Francisco 38  on the 49ers' next
 offensive snap, but the Ravens would came away empty when kicker Justin Tucker
 was  stopped just short  of the first-down marker on a fake field goal attempt
 that the 49ers successfully snuffed out.
 
 San Francisco failed to get a first down on the change of possession, however,
 giving  Baltimore  the ball back  with a little over  two minutes -- plenty of
 time for Flacco to strike once more.
 
 Faced with a 3rd-and-10 on his own 44, the fifth-year triggerman heaved a deep
 pass  to  a wide-open  Jones, who  made a  diving catch  at the nine-yard line
 before  rising to  his feet and eluding Niners cornerback Chris Culliver for a
 56-yard score and a 21-3 Ravens' lead with 1:45 to go before intermission.
 
 San  Francisco was  able to  head into  the locker  room on  a positive  note,
 however,  after Kaepernick  led an  eight-play,  71-yard spree  that ended  in
 Akers'  27-yard field  goal as time expired.  The kick was set up by a 28-yard
 completion to Delanie Walker to the Ravens' 17 with under a minute left.
 
 The  momentum would  be short-lived, though. Jones fielded the opening kickoff
 deep  in his own end zone, burst through a seam across the middle of the field
 and  outraced San  Francisco's coverage unit for the longest kick return score
 in  Super Bowl  history, easily outdistancing a 99-yard runback by Green Bay's
 Desmond Howard at the Superdome in Super Bowl XXXI.
 
 Still,  the  28-6 score wasn't  enough to  pull the plug,  so to speak, on San
 Francisco's hopes.
 
 The  extensive delay  caused by a power  overload that blacked out half of the
 Superdome  seats shortly after Jones' touchdown seemed to reenergize the 49ers
 while  simultaneously deflating Baltimore, with San Francisco scoring on three
 consecutive  offensive trips over a span of four-plus minutes to get back into
 it.
 
 Kaepernick  heated  up as play  resumed, orchestrating a 7-play, 80-yard march
 capped  by an over-the-middle strike to Crabtree in which the physical wideout
 shook off a tackle en route to a 31-yard touchdown that began the 49ers' rally
 midway through the third quarter.
 
 "I  thought they  (the  49ers)  dealt with  it  better  obviously," said  John
 Harbaugh of the stoppage. "They were able to turn the momentum of the game."
 
 A refreshed San Francisco defense induced a quick three-and-out on the ensuing
 series,  and Ted Ginn Jr. took the resulting punt 32 yards before being pushed
 out of bounds at the Ravens' 20.
 
 After  a  14-yard catch  by Davis  that put  him over  the 100-yard mark, Gore
 followed  a crushing block by Walker into the end zone for a 6-yard score that
 suddenly  pulled the 49ers within 28-20 just past the five-minute stage of the
 period.
 
 The  differential  dwindled  further  less  than  two  minutes  later.  Niners
 cornerback  Tarell Brown  jarred the ball loose  from Ray Rice on a short pass
 and  recovered the fumble  at the Ravens' 24, with the miscue converted into a
 second-chance 34-yard field goal from Akers that made it a five-point game.
 
 The struggling kicker pulled his original 39-yard attempt wide left, but got a
 reprieve  when Baltimore's  Chykie  Brown  was flagged  for  running into  the
 kicker.
 
 Baltimore's  slumping offense  finally got something going on its next series,
 with  Flacco  hitting Boldin for  a 30-yard gain on  third down and the Ravens
 eventually  obtaining a  1st-and-goal  at  the San  Francisco  five. Rice  was
 stuffed  twice  near the goal  line, however,  and a Flacco incompletion under
 heavy  duress caused  Tucker to  come on  for a  19-yard field  goal that  put
 Baltimore up 31-23 with 12:54 left to play.
 
 An  unfazed  Kaepernick promptly moved the  49ers 76 yards in just five plays,
 with  the  impressive youngster dropping in  a 32-yard deep ball to Randy Moss
 that preceded Gore's 21-yard run to the Ravens' 18.
 
 Two  snaps  later, Kaepernick broke  containment on a scramble and outsprinted
 the  Baltimore defense for a 15-yard touchdown that cut the lead to 31-29 with
 9:57  remaining. A  potential game-tying two-point conversion try was no good,
 though, when he overthrew Moss in the end zone.
 
 The  failed attempt would loom large after Flacco came through one final time,
 getting a critical assist from Boldin along the way.
 
 The  veteran wide receiver came up with an acrobatic 15-yard grab on 3rd-and-1
 for  a crucial moving  of the chains, and Rice ripped off a 12-yard run on the
 subsequent snap to the 49ers' 28, setting the stage for Tucker's 38-yard field
 goal that pushed Baltimore's edge to five.
 
 Now  needing  a touchdown to  move ahead  instead of a  field goal to tie, San
 Francisco  continued to  move the ball without much resistance. Kaepernick hit
 Crabtree  across the middle for 24 yards to cross midfield, and Gore got loose
 for  a 33-yard run off left tackle before finally being tackled at the Ravens'
 seven with the two-minute warning looming.
 
 As it turned out, that would be the last big play the Niners had left.
 
 James  mustered  just two  yards on  first down  and Kaepernick twice couldn't
 connect  with a tightly  covered Crabtree to bring on fourth down with 1:50 to
 go.
 
 "We  had  to stay  poised," said  Ravens defensive  lineman Arthur Jones. "All
 these guys here, we are here for a reason. We are here to win. This is the end
 of the Ray Lewis chapter and we wanted to end it right for him."
 
 Kaepernick  again looked  for a  double-covered --  and possibly  contacted --
 Crabtree  after taking a shotgun snap, but his fade pass landed harmlessly out
 of bounds and Baltimore took over on downs with 1:46 on the final clock.
 
 "There's  no question in my mind that there was a pass interference [on one of
 the  earlier incompletions] and then a hold on Crabtree on the last one," said
 Jim Harbaugh.
 
 Though the Ravens couldn't quite run out the remaining time, they were able to
 leave  San Francisco with little operating room after a smart decision by John
 Harbaugh and punter Sam Koch, who successfully took off a few precious seconds
 before running out of the end zone for a safety.
 
 Baltimore  kicked  it away  with just  four seconds  showing, with Ginn taking
 Koch's  boot at  his own 19 and  getting only to midfield before being brought
 down as time ran out.
 
 "We  don't make anything easy," Flacco remarked. "It was a hard fought game on
 both  sides. I  think we gave the country  a pretty good game to watch. Not to
 our  liking  necessarily, but that's the  way it goes sometimes and that's the
 way we do things."
 
                                   Game Notes
 
 Jacoby Jones' kickoff return touchdown was the ninth in Super Bowl history and
 first  since Chicago's Devin Hester had a 92-yard runback against Indianapolis
 in  Super Bowl XLI. It's the second such score by a Raven, with Jermaine Lewis
 recording an 84-yard return in Super Bowl XXXV ... Baltimore became the second
 straight  No. 4  seed from its conference to capture the Lombardi Trophy, with
 the New York Giants accomplishing the feat out of the NFC last season ... John
 Harbaugh  also  prevailed in  the only other  head-to-head meeting between the
 brothers, a 16-6 Ravens' victory in Baltimore on Thanksgiving of 2011, and now
 has  nine  postseason wins --  surpassing Tom Flores for  the most of any head
 coach  in his  first five seasons ... Kaepernick became the fourth quarterback
 to  start a  Super Bowl in the  same season of his first career start, joining
 Vince Ferragamo (Rams, Super Bowl XIV), Kurt Warner (Rams, XXIV) and Tom Brady
 (Patriots,  XXXVI) ...  New Orleans  was hosting  the 10th  Super Bowl  in the
 city's history, tied with South Florida for the most by any locale. Seven have
 been  held at the  Superdome, though it was the first since the Gulf Coast was
 struck  by Hurricane  Katrina in  2005 ...  Ravens Pro  Bowl defensive  tackle
 Haloti Ngata left the contest after spraining his knee on Gore's third-quarter
 touchdown  ...  The NFC had won  the last three  Super Bowls and still holds a
 25-22 overall edge in the game's history.
 
 02/04 01:43:29 ET