"When you go against a team that has that kind of reputation, and you can watch it on film, it definitely gets in your mindset and you know you have to deal with it," Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger said. "I'm not sitting here saying that we're intimidating everybody or anything like that. But you know we're coming to hit you, for sure."
Pollard put things a little more starkly.
This is a guy who has developed a knack for leaving injured opponents in his wake. It was his Week 1 hit on Brady in 2008, for example, that cost the star QB the rest of that season.
"For everybody, for fans, people who don't understand — they want to say, well, I'm being a dirty player. Well, no, I'm not being a dirty player. I'm just playing defense," said Pollard, a seventh-year veteran out of Purdue. "And I ask you the question: If I came into your house, with your door locked, and I just kicked it down, and came to try to steal stuff, you're going to defend your house, am I correct? So that's the stand I take. We've got grass behind us. We've got the end zone that we have to defend, we've got to protect."
If his is a way of thinking about the game that, as Williams noted, Lewis brought to Baltimore, the 49ers' current group — featuring players such as safety Donte Whitner and linebacker Patrick Willis — can trace its lineage back to Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott.
He, for one, enjoys watching these two teams do what they do when opponents have the ball.
"There is a Steel Curtain or Chicago Bears type mentality with both of these defenses. Both of them bring a kind of edge to how they play," Lott said in a telephone interview. "They both swarm to the ball, get a lot of people to the ball. It won't be just one guy hitting you. There will be a number of guys."
Lott spoke admiringly about how well the 49ers and Ravens do what should come more naturally than it seems to in the NFL nowadays: tackle.
Only eight teams allowed an average of 5 yards or fewer after a catch this season, and two are meeting to decide who gets to take home the Lombardi Trophy.
"In a game like this where you have guys who are explosive guys, like (Frank) Gore, like (Ray) Rice, like (Colin) Kaepernick, like (Anquan) Boldin, you have to tackle," Lott said. "And you have to tackle properly. These teams do."
Seven of the 46 previous Super Bowls ended with MVP awards going to defensive players. That includes 2001, when Baltimore's Lewis was honored; it hasn't happened since 2003, with Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Dexter Jackson.
But with players such as Lewis and Terrell Suggs on the field, plus Aldon Smith and Justin Smith, Willis and NaVorro Bowman, Whitner and Pollard, perhaps the MVP of Sunday's game will be someone who prevents points.
"It's just like the old saying," Baltimore's Ellerbe said. "Offense sells tickets; defense wins championships."
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Santa Clara, Calif., contributed to this report.
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