Joe Flacco's 13-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin gave the Baltimore Ravens a 7-0 lead over the San Francisco 49ers less than 4 1/2 minutes into the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Ravens won the pregame coin toss and chose to defer until the second half. The kickoff went out of the end zone, so the 49ers began the game's first drive on their 20. But they were called for an illegal formation on the very first play, then needed to punt.
A good return by Jacoby Jones set up Baltimore near midfield, and they promptly drove 51 yards in six plays. Another 49ers penalty on third down at the 18 came right before Flacco's nice scoring pass over the middle to Boldin. Flacco was 3 of 4 for 41 yards on his team's opening possession.
The NFC champion 49ers (13-4-1) were seeking their record-tying sixth Super Bowl title - but first since 1995 - and brought in a 5-0 record from their previous appearances. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers have won six Super Bowls.
The AFC champion Ravens (13-6), a franchise that moved from Cleveland to Baltimore 17 years ago, also came in unbeaten in Super Bowls, albeit only 1-0, thanks to their championship in 2001, when linebacker Ray Lewis was voted the game's MVP.
All eyes were going to be on Lewis this time again, as he played his final game before retirement after a 17-year career that is expected to land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Lewis missed 10 games this season with a torn right triceps muscle - and spent two days in the past week dismissing a report that he had used, of all things, deer-antler spray to enhance his performance.
About 45 minutes before the opening kickoff, Lewis gathered his teammates in the end zone painted the Ravens' purple team color. As they encircled him, Lewis - large triangles of eye black covering his entire cheeks - delivered his usual rousing pregame speech, and other players whooped it up, too.
Not long after, 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis - who, like Lewis, wears No. 52 - delivered his own fiery words, surrounded by the rest of his team near the red, white and blue NFL shield logo at midfield.
It was the first Super Bowl coaching matchup between brothers: Baltimore's John Harbaugh is 15 months older than San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh.
Both starting quarterbacks were making their debut in the NFL championship game.
Indeed, 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick was making only his 10th start the NFL, having taken over the job after Alex Smith got a concussion during a game. Flacco, who led the Ravens past Denver's Peyton Manning and New England's Tom Brady for two of his league-record six career postseason road victories by a quarterback, was getting one last chance to impress before heading into an offseason that could land him a $20 million-per-year contract in free agency.
Before the game began, with 100 million or so Americans expected to tune in on TV, a chorus of 26 children from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. - where 20 students and six adults were killed in a shooting rampage in December - sang ''America the Beautiful,'' accompanied by ''American Idol'' alum Jennifer Hudson. Grammy winner Alicia Keys performed the national anthem.
This was the 10th time New Orleans hosted the big game - tying Miami for most in a city - and first since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Big Easy in August 2005.