Ravens-49ers Preview

Preparing their respective teams for Super Bowl XLVII might be

easier for John and Jim Harbaugh than having to downplay the

distraction of becoming the first brothers to coach against one

another on the NFL’s biggest stage.

With each focused on trying to take home the Lombardi Trophy,

Jim’s San Francisco 49ers look for a record-tying sixth Super Bowl

title Sunday in New Orleans when they face John’s Baltimore Ravens,

who hope to send one of the game’s greatest players off to

retirement in style.

Moments after Baltimore’s 28-13 win at New England in the AFC

championship game Jan. 20, the colorful descriptions for this

season’s Super Bowl began to surface: The Brother Bowl. The

Har-Bowl. The Super-Baugh. For game broadcast network CBS,

advertisers and certainly those in the NFL front office, the

matchup has the potential to be a ratings smash.

For the brothers Harbaugh, at least publicly, it’s just another


“Well, I think it’s a blessing and a curse,” said Jim Harbaugh,

15 months younger than 50-year-old John. “A blessing because that

is my brother’s team. And, also, personally I played for the

Ravens. Great respect for their organization.

“The curse part would be the talk of two brothers playing in the

Super Bowl and what that takes away from the players that are in

the game. Every moment that you’re talking about myself or John,

that’s less time that the players are going to be talked


John Harbaugh understands the magnitude of this meeting in terms

of football significance, but that’s about it.

“I like reading a lot of history … I guess it’s pretty neat,”

he said. “But is it really going to be written about? It’s not

exactly like Churchill and Roosevelt or anything. It’s pretty cool,

but that’s as far as it goes.”

Perhaps the matchup will be hardest on the Harbaughs’ parents,

Jack and Jackie. The couple has lived through this experience once

on a lesser scale when Baltimore improved to 3-1 in the all-time

series with a third straight win over the 49ers, 16-6 on

Thanksgiving Day in 2011.

“I am going to be neutral in the game,” Jackie Harbaugh said.

“I know one is going to win and one is going to lose, but I would

really like to end in a tie. Can the NFL do that?”

Regardless of who wins, the family can celebrate the

accomplishments that brought the brothers to this point.

Jim, who never made a Super Bowl appearance during his 15-year

playing career, has guided the 49ers (13-4-1) to New Orleans after

losing 20-17 in overtime to New York in the conference championship

last season. Aiming to equal Pittsburgh’s record six Super Bowl

titles, San Francisco has not played on this stage since a 49-26

win over San Diego capped the 1994 season.

Jim’s brother has the Ravens (13-6) here for the first time

since they ended the 2000 season with a 34-7 rout of the Giants in

Super Bowl XXXV, their first championship.

Future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis was MVP of that game,

and he can try to win the award again in his last contest before

retiring after a stellar 17-year career with Baltimore.

As with his last appearance in the Super Bowl, however,

controversy has surrounded Lewis, albeit on a significantly lower


When Lewis hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in January 2001, it was

almost a year since his involvement in the stabbing deaths of two

people outside an Atlanta nightclub hours after St. Louis’ Super

Bowl win over Tennessee at the Georgia Dome. Lewis, who had been

charged with two counts of murder before striking a deal to testify

against two of his friends, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge

of obstruction of justice and received a one-year probation and a

$250,000 fine by the NFL.

The trial made headlines for a good portion of 2000 before Lewis

led the Ravens on their championship run that fall. The murders

were never solved.

Lewis has since rehabilitated his image, but this week has been

forced to answer questions regarding a recent Sports Illustrated

report linking him to a company that makes deer-antler spray, which

contains a banned performance enhancer. The report stated Lewis

sought help from the company that makes the product to speed his

recovery from a torn right triceps injury which forced him to miss

10 games this season.

Lewis has denied the allegations.

“I’ve never took what (the report) said, or did whatever I was

suppose to do,” said Lewis, who brought down Jim Harbaugh for his

first career sack. “I don’t need it, my teammates don’t need it,

the 49ers don’t need it. Just to entertain it, I won’t. I


His coach does not expect this to be a distraction.

“He’s been through this so much, he’s a singularly focused

individual,” John Harbaugh said. “As far as football, it’s not even

a factor for us. It’s too bad it’s something that gets so much


Lewis and a defense that held the Patriots to one touchdown in

the AFC title game will do their best to stop versatile San

Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

A second-round pick in 2011, Kaepernick has gained sudden

stardom for going 7-2 after taking over as the starter after Alex

Smith suffered a concussion in Week 10. In those nine games,

Kaepernick has completed 62.7 percent of his passes and thrown 13

touchdowns with four interceptions while averaging 7.3 rushing

yards and a 101.2 passer rating.

In San Francisco’s 45-31 divisional-round win over Green Bay on

Jan. 12, he threw for 263 yards with two TDs and set an NFL playoff

rushing record for a quarterback with 181 and two scores.

The 49ers have averaged 28.6 points in the last nine games with

Kaepernick starting – 4.9 more than the previous nine started by

Smith. Mobile and athletic, Kaepernick has brought a new dimension

to the 49ers offense as his ability to scramble also buys him time

to employ his powerful and accurate right arm.

“We’re going to have to keep him inside and in front of our

defense,” John Harbaugh told the Ravens’ official website. “We’re

not going to be able to run past him. He’s fully capable of putting

200 yards on you in a second.”

Kaepernick’s effect on the offense was evident during his team’s

28-24 conference championship victory at Atlanta, when he threw for

233 yards and a TD as the 49ers rallied from a 17-point first-half


“Anybody that is out there on the football field, you want to

see them produce and get results,” left tackle Joe Staley said. “I

think it was one of those things where we saw him in practice and

we just wanted to see how he was going to handle the situation in

the games. He has done that.”

Kaepernick is complemented by the 49ers’ powerful ground attack,

which was fourth in the NFL with 155.7 yards per game. Frank Gore

rushed for 1,214 yards and eight TDs on the season, while speedy

LaMichael James provides a change of pace to Gore’s bruising


Like his brother’s move to stick with Kaepernick when Smith was

again healthy, John Harbaugh’s decision to fire offensive

coordinator Cam Cameron and promote quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell

in December also has paid off.

Baltimore is 4-2 with Caldwell running the offense, and Joe

Flacco has thrown 10 TDs and no INTs while posting a 111.5 passer

rating to lead his team to victories in four of the last five.

The first quarterback to win a playoff game in each of his first

five seasons, Flacco has won an NFL-record six playoff road

contests. He’s thrown eight touchdowns while beating Andrew Luck,

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady this postseason.

His three second-half TDs helped the Ravens overcame a 13-7

halftime deficit at New England two weeks ago, and he engineered a

miraculous tying drive in the final minute against Denver in the

divisional round of that overtime victory.

“You naturally become more of the guy when you spend a number of

years in the league,” said Flacco, who will become an unrestricted

free agent after the season. “As a quarterback, it’s my job to lead

from Day 1.

“I think it’s just one of those things you dream of when you are

a little kid. So, to be here at this point is pretty special.”

Flacco threw for 161 yards and tossed an 8-yard pass to tight

end Dennis Pitta for the game’s only touchdown against San

Francisco last season. Though much less mobile than Kaepernick, he

also boasts a strong and accurate arm that will likely present a

serious test to the 49ers’ secondary.

Though the 477 yards the 49ers gave up against the Falcons were

the second most they’ve allowed this season, Flacco and the Ravens

know they’re in for a major challenge Sunday. Led by arguably the

most feared linebacking corps in the league – a group highlighted

by NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks –

San Francisco’s defense ranked second in the NFL in scoring defense

at 17.1 points per game and third in yards allowed at 294.4.

That unit remains the heart of a team which believes it’s meant

to be in this spot.

“I would say this is the most talented team I have been on,”

safety Donte Whitner told the 49ers’ official website. “Not only

talented, but guys come and work hard. When you mix talent and hard

work, the results are the Super Bowl.”

This will be the 10th time New Orleans has hosted the Super Bowl

and first since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the area in 2005. It’s

yet another sign of the resurgence of a city that also has hosted

the BCS national title game and the men’s Final Four over the last

18 months.

“That is an extraordinary run of events for a city that seven

years ago was 15 feet under water and the last on every list in

America that mattered,” mayor Mitch Landrieu said last week. “Now

we find ourselves in a city that’s on the world stage.”

This Super Bowl will be something of a bittersweet moment for

the Ravens with longtime owner Art Modell passing away Sept. 6 at

age 87. The players have worn patches that read “Art” on their

jerseys throughout the season.