- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Five nuggets of knowledge about the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII:
Super sendoff: There is no better way for Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis to end his illustrious 17-year career than with a Super Bowl victory. Lewis would join an elite group of star players who left the game on top. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only three Hall of Fame players in the last 25 years won the Super Bowl in their final games: Broncos quarterback John Elway (1998), Broncos offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman (1997) and Redskins guard Russ Grimm (1991). Steelers running back Jerome Bettis (2005) would join that list with admission to the Hall of Fame. Lewis could also become the first player in NFL history to win two Super Bowls 12 seasons apart. Only one player, kicker Matt Bahr, has won Super Bowls more than nine seasons apart, according to Elias.
Looking for the ring: Joe Flacco has had unparalleled success in the playoffs, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to win a postseason game in each of his first five years in the league. But there has been frustration for Flacco in the playoffs. His eight postseason victories are tied for third-most by any quarterback without a Super Bowl victory. Only Jim Kelly and Donovan McNabb have more wins in the playoffs (both with nine) without a ring. But these playoffs have been different for Flacco. In the previous four years, he threw eight touchdowns and eight interceptions in nine playoff games. This year, Flacco has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions.
Big-time brother: Lost in the storyline of brothers coaching against each other in the Super Bowl has been John Harbaugh's climb among the coaching elite. With a win in the Super Bowl, Harbaugh would improve to 9-4 in the playoffs, which would tie Bill Belichick and Jimmy Johnson for the fifth-best postseason winning percentage (minimum 10 games), according to ESPN Stats & Information. The top four coaching marks are held by Vince Lombardi, Tom Flores, Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs. Harbaugh is the only coach in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons.
Flying high: Wide receiver Torrey Smith is the Ravens' best chance of exploiting a suddenly vulnerable 49ers secondary. Smith has posted the league's second-best yards per catch average (17.7) over the past two seasons. Since the start of 2012, he also has 10 touchdowns of 25 yards or more, which is tied for the most in the NFL with Victor Cruz and Jordy Nelson. This is an important note to remember against the 49ers, who have given up nine catches of 20 yards or more in the playoffs. San Francisco had been one of the best defenses at not allowing big plays. During the regular season, the 49ers gave up 38 passes of more than 20 yards, the third-fewest in the league.
Rare drought: Ravens safety Ed Reed leads all active players with 61 interceptions and has picked off eight passes in the playoffs. But Reed has gone seven straight games without an interception, the third-longest drought of his career. He also has only one interception in his last seven postseason games. This has been a quiet postseason for Reed, who hasn't broken up a pass in two games. Emotions will be running high for him in the Super Bowl. It's a homecoming for the New Orleans native, and it could mark his final game in a Ravens uniform. Don't be surprised if Reed breaks out of this rut.
Prediction: Ravens 34, 49ers 27: The Ravens won the Super Bowl with defense 12 years ago. This time, it will be on the strength of their offense. It's difficult to doubt Flacco anymore after what he's done in the playoffs.