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Ravens D overshadows Brother Bowl
Yes, John Harbaugh won the brother vs. brother showdown and he had the wet clothes from the postgame cooler drenching to prove it.
In fact, the plethora of coverage of the league's first game between sibling head coaches received was nothing like what the Ravens — with a franchise-tying nine sacks, an interception and 170 total yards allowed — blanketed the field with in a 16-6 victory.
"The No. 1 game plan was to win the Harbaugh Bowl," said Ravens pass-rush specialist Terrell Suggs, who matched a career high with three sacks. "Coach tried to downplay it. He tried to play (it) like, 'You know, it is not me vs. my brother. This is the Ravens vs. the 49ers.' As a team, we went out there and really wanted to win it for him."
Exactly how dominant was the Ravens' defense? San Francisco running back Frank Gore, who has rushed for 100 or more yards on five occasions this season, had 39 yards on 14 carries. The 49ers only converted on third down twice — once in each half — and they never made it into the red zone, settling for two long David Akers field goals for their only points.
"It's Thanksgiving, man," said Ravens defensive lineman Cory Redding, who had 2-1/2 sacks. "There's a lot of turkey. We had to go out there and eat."
And the Ravens did it all without their defensive leader, linebacker Ray Lewis, who missed his second consecutive game with turf toe.
"They have a relentless pass rush," Jim Harbaugh said. "We made some plays, but didn't make enough."
San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith was hurried several times beyond those nine sacks that pushed the Niners back 44 total yards. He also grounded the ball once and finished 15 of 24 for 140 yards passing and the one interception.
"There were times I felt they were a step ahead of us," said Smith, whose 49ers entered Thursday on an eight-game winning streak. "They have a very good defense and it seemed like we were in third-and-long all night."
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco wasn't extraordinary, but he didn't have to be. His 8-yard TD toss to tight end Dennis Pitta — which gave the Ravens a 13-6 lead four seconds into the fourth quarter — all but sealed the game.
That's not to say the brothers plot wasn't an entertaining sideshow.
Both Jim and John had one of those "did not" moments early in the second quarter — you know the response where your sibling denies they took more than the allotted space in the backseat.
Smith found Ted Ginn Jr. open downfield for a 75-yard TD pass 52 seconds into the quarter as the main weakness of the Ravens defense — a secondary struggling to catch up to the rest of the defense — looked to have been exposed again. But Gore was flagged for a chop block, the ball was pushed back to the San Francisco 13 and the 49ers ultimately punted.
Jim Harbaugh didn't rip the call, but Gore said he could see it "both ways."
On that punt, a long return by Ladarius Webb was wiped out by an illegal block called on Baltimore's Kris Wilson. Since the flag — which also could have been argued the other way — occurred right in front of John, he argued the case as best he could to officials. John also challenged the spot of the ball in the final two minutes of the contest.
Just like your parents may have done from the front seat, the officiating crew ignored all three pleas.
At least their father, Jack, wasn't within earshot.
The Harbaugh family gathered at midfield about an hour before kickoff with a horde of cameras surrounding them. The brothers were all smiles and exchanged both a handshake and a hug before John, Jim, their parents, Jack and Jackie, and John's daughter Alison posed for a photo.
After a quick chat with his sons minus the cameras, Jack made his way to an office inside the stadium to watch the game. He said watching the game in person was too much for him.
Afterward, Jim approached his soaked brother at midfield.
"I congratulated him and told him I loved him," Jim said.
Afterward, John sounded more relieved than he did a gloating older bro.
"Just running across the field, I felt really humble," he said. "Really humble and just thankful."