There aren’t many bigger moments to get upstaged by your older brother than during the NFL playoffs. But unfortunately for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, that’s exactly what happened to him. He pulled of a comeback win against the Falcons, holding them scoreless in the second half in order to assure a Super Bowl berth. Only 30 minutes later, his older brother and Ravens coach John Harbaugh, pulled off the same stunt against the great Tom Brady to assure his own Super Bowl berth. And now we all get to see these brothers meet up in New Orleans to duke it out in Super Bowl XLVII.
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has been the most influential player of the postseason. He propelled the Ravens out of their late-season funk by announcing his upcoming retirement, and now Baltimore is in their first Super Bowl since 2001. For San Francisco, the biggest reason they have made the Super Bowl is Jim Harbaugh’s risky mid-season move to replace starting quarterback Alex Smith with dynamic second-year QB Colin Kaepernick. Smith was a very good game manager who fit in with San Francisco’s power running game, but Jim knew in the back of his mind that they would need a more dynamic quarterback to win the Super Bowl. So far that plan has worked to perfection. Kaepernick tore up the Packers defense in the divisional round and led a second half comeback against the Falcons in the NFC Championship.
So what kind of game will it be when the brothers clash? Well, both teams are led by very strong defenses, have great feature running backs and have quarterbacks who can, at the very least, make plays. Kaepernick throws one of the hardest balls in the NFL and is a great runner, and Joe Flacco has the strongest arm in the league. These teams seem so evenly matched, but the difference should come down to Kaepernick’s and the 49ers’ versatility.
With Smith the 49ers had one mode, ground and pound, and although they did it well it was the only offense they could run. With Kaepernick they can run the ball down the middle, run the read-option, throw it down the field, or use any other game plan Jim Harbaugh devises.
The Ravens have only played against fairly one-dimensional passing teams in their playoff run (the Colts, the Broncos, and the Patriots). No one has tried to get physical with Ravens up to this point. Three of their late season losses were against the Redskins, who ran a read option, the Steelers, who reverted to running the ball without Ben Roethlisberger, and the Broncos, who ran for 163 yards on them. If the offense plays physical up front and the defense steps up to take away Flacco’s deep ball, Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers should nab the win. On the biggest day in sports the younger brother will walk away with the victory.