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Encouraging showing from J. Smith

Ravens much-maligned second-year cornerback Jimmy Smith came up with two key plays in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter Sunday night to help Baltimore hold the 49ers without a go-ahead touchdown and all but seal a Ravens victory.

San Francisco, trailing 34-29, worked the ball to Baltimore's 5-yard line with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. But Smith laid a hit on 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree to prevent a short completion on third-and-goal from the 5-yard line. And then on fourth down, on what proved to be the game's decisive play, Smith had tight coverage on Crabtree to help force an overthrow from San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

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The incompletion resulted in a turnover on downs, and San Francisco's offense never got the ball back.

Smith had been serving as the Ravens' nickel back since taking over the role from Chykie Brown during Baltimore's win over the New England Patriots in the AFC championship.

Smith had previously seen only limited playing time in the weeks since returning from the sports hernia surgery that sidelined him for five games during the latter part of the regular season.

Smith was the Ravens' first round pick in the 2011 NFL draft, but he'd underachieved during his first season-plus in the NFL and then was then limited by the injury.

Harbaugh, though, said Monday that he believes Smith's performance in the Super Bowl will be a "springboard" for the cornerback going forward.

"I think he made the two plays at the end of the game to win the game," Harbaugh said. "He played great. Jimmy has been practicing very well. He finally got healthy at the end the year there. He was at his best the last couple weeks. Jimmy is going to be, like we said all along, a great player in this league. I love him. He is really special."

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