Five key players

RB Ray Rice has 1,937 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing and receiving in 19 games this season.

"Ray Rice is the heart and soul of the Ravens' offense. With Ray Lewis retiring and Joe Flacco coming on the way he has, Ray Rice doesn't get enough credit for what he means to that team." -- Eddie George, four-time Pro Bowl running back and current TV analyst.

QB Joe Flacco passed for a career-best 3,817 yards in guiding the Ravens to the playoffs for the fifth straight season.

"When you look at the criticism that Joe Flacco has been through, our guys have been through a lot. We've been to three AFC championship games. We've been to the playoffs each year, and we just haven't got the job done. But now we're here on the big stage, and Joe deserves all that credit." -- Running back Ray Rice

FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2013, file photo, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) throws a pass against the Denver Broncos during the fourth quarter of
FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2013, file photo, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) throws a pass against the Denver Broncos during the fourth quarter of an AFC divisional playoff NFL football game in Denver. The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers meet in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, Feb. 3, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

MLB Ray Lewis made 44 tackles in the Ravens' three playoff victories. Lewis returned from a torn triceps in time for the playoffs, at which time he announced his retirement after the Super Bowl.

"Of course, we want to send him off the right way. Yeah, it's Ray's last ride, but I wouldn't be so certain about that. Ain't no telling. He might make a comeback. He may play 10 games next year." -- Safety Ed Reed

WR Torrey Smith caught 58 passes for 1,053 yards and 10 touchdowns the first 19 games, including two touchdowns in a playoff victory over the Broncos.

"It's who we are. That's what our city is, a tough city. You get knocked down, you've got to get back up. That's how life is. You just can't lay down and roll over. You've got to continue to fight." -- Smith, on how he and his teammates are fighters

DT Haloti Ngata was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fourth straight season, and he is considered the anchor of the Ravens defensive line.

"Did you see him chase down RGIII out of bounds? That's pretty insane, a 340-pound guy moving that fast. No matter how banged up he is, he can still move around pretty good." -- Ravens defensive end Paul Kruger, on Ngata's tackle of Robert Griffin III

Three intangibles

In this Sept. 11, 2011, file photo, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis screams after intercepting a pass by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben
In this Sept. 11, 2011, file photo, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis screams after intercepting a pass by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during the second half of an NFL football game in Baltimore. Lewis will retire after the Ravens play the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

1. The Ravens want to send Ray Lewis into retirement with a Super Bowl victory. Lewis, a 17-year veteran, announced his retirement just before the Ravens first playoff game, and the Ravens feel as if they are riding on that emotion.

2. Ravens coach John Harbaugh is the one person who knows how Jim Harbaugh thinks. While that cuts both ways, John has the edge in coaching experience.

3. It's likely no team will be better prepared for Colin Kaepernick. Not only have the Ravens had two weeks to prepare for him, but they also have two quarterbacks -- including Bay Area native Dennis Dixon -- whose experience running the read-option offense has provided optimum simulation for the Baltimore defense.

Three matchups Ravens must win

1. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, approaching full strength after suffering a torn Achilles tendon during the offseason, must finds ways to beat 49ers left offensive tackle Joe Staley and get consistent pressure on Kaepernick while being mindful of Kaepernick trying to run around the left side.

2. Wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Smith need to use their size and strength against cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown. Boldin and Smith rely upon their physical attributes to create mismatches against smaller defenders.

3. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, 6 feet 4 and 340 pounds, is big enough, strong enough and agile enough to overpower most interior offensive linemen. The Ravens are counting on him to use that rare combination to collapse the pocket and disrupt Kaepernick's timing, in addition to clogging up the running lanes for Frank Gore and LaMichael James.

Five key numbers

0 -- Quarterback Joe Flacco navigated his way through three playoff games without having any of his 93 passes intercepted. He passed for eight touchdowns during those three victories. The last five quarterbacks with a minimum 8:0 TD-INT ratio in the postseason won the Super Bowl and the Super Bowl MVP.

 In this Jan. 20, 2013, file photo, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (27) goes in for a two-yard touchdown run against New England Patriots outside
In this Jan. 20, 2013, file photo, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (27) goes in for a two-yard touchdown run against New England Patriots outside linebacker Dont'a Hightower (54) during the first half of the NFL football AFC Championship game in Foxborough, Mass. The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers meet in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, Feb. 3, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

6 -- The Ravens are 6-0 under coach John Harbaugh whenever they have an extra week to prepare for an opponent. By comparison, the 49ers are 3-0-1 under coach Jim Harbaugh.

6.2 -- The Ravens faced the read-option only once this season, Week 14 against the Washington Redskins. The Redskins averaged 6.2 yards on their 15 runs out of the read-option.

15 -- The Ravens tied for the second-fewest passing touchdowns allowed in the regular season. They allowed four in three playoff victories against quarterbacks that combined for 94 touchdown passes: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck.

.650 -- The Ravens are 13-7 in postseason play, the best winning percentage in NFL history.

Top 3 Strengths

Quarterback play: Joe Flacco is in the midst of one of the more impressive postseason runs in NFL history, with eight touchdowns and no interceptions in three playoff games. His success passing also has opened up the running game and made the Ravens a well-balanced offense.

Run defense: The Ravens allowed only 3.5 yards per carry in their three playoff victories, down from a regular-season average of 4.0, which ranked eighth in the NFL.

Right side of offensive line: Right offensive tackle Michael Oher and right guard Marshal Yanda comprise one of the most imposing duos in the league. Running back Ray Rice gained the lion's share of his 1,390 yards rushing running behind that pair.

Top 3 Weaknesses

Aging defense: Free safety Ed Reed, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, middle linebacker Ray Lewis and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata no longer are as dominant as they once were. The Baltimore defense allowed an average of 350.9 yards per game in the regular season, up from 288.9 in 2011, when the Ravens finished third in team defense.

Time of possession: The Ravens finished 29th in average time of possession, at 28 minutes, 40 seconds -- every other playoff team finished in the top half. By comparison, the 49ers were fifth at 31:46.

Penalties: Only one team (the Rams) were flagged more times than the Ravens' 121, and no team had more penalty yards than their 1,127.

-- Steve Corkran, Staff