NEW ORLEANS -- Ray Lewis’ final ride came down to his last defensive stand with the Ravens.
Lewis’ second Super Bowl title, coming in the final game of his 17th-year career, was secure.
“We made it,” Ray Rice said as he interrupted Lewis' postgame chat with media.
And Lewis’ eyes lit up, and then he reciprocated to the fifth-year running back who refers to him as a father figure: “We made it. I love you, baby.”
Quarterback Joe Flacco dominated in the first half, getting the Ravens out to a 21-6 lead by throwing TD passes of 13, 1 and 56 yards. But the 49ers mounted a furious comeback by outscoring them 25-13 after the break.
The Ravens only touchdown came on a 108-yard kick return by Jacoby Jones. The defense started to wilt down the stretch but held firm at the very end.
“When you a championship,” said Lewis, who was the MVP of the 2001 Super Bowl when the Ravens beat the New York Giants 34-7. “One man won’t win the ring. It’ll be a complete team. Today, we won it as a complete team.”
The Ravens were fractured, at least physically, beginning in Week 6 when Lewis tore his right triceps vs. the Dallas Cowboys. Initially, it appeared his season would be over. They lost their best cornerback, Lardarius Webb, to a season-ending knee injury, too.
They already were without their other star linebacker, Terrell Suggs, who missed the first six games recovering from an Achilles tear. Then Suggs, tore his right biceps a few weeks later and played through it as he delayed season-ending surgery. There were other key injuries on defense to defensive end Pernell McPhee, tackle Haloti Ngata, linebackers Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Jimmy Smith, among others.
Lewis missed the final 10 regular-season games but returned for the playoffs, posting a playoff-high 44 tackles going into Sunday’s game.
Lewis had 7 tackles, second to Ellerbe with 9, against the 49ers.
“Finish the race,” Lewis said, referring to a Sunday morning sermon that inspired him. “Finish the race. As a team, we finished the race.”
Kaepernick ran 15 yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 31-29 with 10:04 left in the game. He failed on a two-point conversion that would've tied the score.
The 49ers never led in the game, but they had one last chance.
“There was no panic. When you have that, when your backs against the wall and we said they got three more plays (at) this goal line and if we all do our jobs they won’t get in,” said Lewis, who had a defense that allowed 468 yards -- the most ever by a Super Bowl champion. “For us to stand up like that it’s a testament to what we've been through and how much trust we have all year with each other. That was probably one of the most amazing goal line stances I've ever been a part of in my career.”
Now Lewis gets to watch his son, Ray III, enter his freshman season as a running back at his alma mater, the University of Miami. He has another son who plays high school football in Lake Mary, Fla., and a job as an analyst for ESPN in the offing.
"Everything is in front of me now," Lewis said. "The only thing that ends for me is football."