Take that, Mannings.
The coaching Harbaugh brothers have accomplished something that the quarterbacking Mannings never could: they’ll face each other in the Super Bowl. On Sunday, John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens pummeled the New England Patriots in the AFC title game, 28-13, while Jim’s San Francisco 49ers fought back from a 17-0 first-half deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome, 28-24, in the NFC championship game. Each Harbaugh pulled out his victory on the road, and they’re masters of the half-time adjustment: on Sunday, the Harbaughs outscored their opponents by a combined score of 35-0 in the second half.
Trailing 13-7 at halftime, John put the ball in the hands of Joe Flacco, who out–Tom Brady’d Tom Brady: in the second half, Flacco tossed three touchdown passes and picked apart the soft New England defense with a barrage of quick strikes. Before this game, Brady had been 67-0 when leading at halftime in Foxborough. The Patriots hurt themselves, turning the ball over three times in the game. Brady — who appeared to intentionally kick Baltimore’s Ed Reed while falling to the ground during one scramble — threw a couple of interceptions.
In the fourth quarter, Baltimore’s Bernard Pollard viciously hit New England running back Stevan Ridley in the head. As Ridley’s legs bent in a gruesome fashion, he fumbled. As he lay on the ground, being attended to, Ravens and Patriots players fought over the ball. Baltimore recovered, scored another touchdown, and the game was pretty much over.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick also became strangely conservative in this game. He punted the ball twice in Baltimore territory. The strategy failed to produce; New England’s Super Bowl drought has reached eight years. For the third time in four years, the Pats lost a home playoff game. The window may be closing for Brady and Belichick, who once again blew off the postgame interview that every gracious losing coach endures.
Jim Harbaugh put the ball in the hands of Colin Kaepernick back in November, when his starter, Alex Smith, suffered a concussion. Harbaugh stuck with Kaepernick even when Smith was cleared to return, a decision that many found callous and foolish. After all, Smith fell just three points shy of making last year’s Super Bowl. The Falcons tried to limit Kaepernick’s running: last week, he ran for 181 yards — a record for a quarterback — and scored two rushing touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers. So on Sunday, Kaepernick showed that he’s also an efficient pocket passer: he went 16-21 with 233 yards and a touchdown pass. He’ll be making his 10th career start on Feb. 3, in New Orleans in the Super Bowl.
Yes, you’ll be sick of hearing about the Harbaughs soon enough (by Tuesday, maybe?). In case you’re unfamiliar, here are some basics: John, 50, is a year older than Jim, and is a coaching lifer, much like his father Jack, a former assistant to Bo Schembechler at Michigan. Jim starred as a quarterback at Michigan and played 15 seasons in the NFL.
And he’s the more intense one. Just check out this reaction to what he thought was a bad call in Sunday’s game.
You may hear some stories about how Jack and his wife Jackie feel a bit conflicted about this game, because one of their sons has to lose. But one will win. They already know that they’re the parents of a Super Bowl–winning coach, before the game even kicks off. How bad can that be?
The Harbaughs have already faced off once, on Thanksgiving 2011 — Baltimore won, 16-6. After the Ravens beat New England, someone asked John about two weeks of brotherly hype. “Let’s just cut that right now, you know what I mean?” he said. “Can we all agree? Let’s just forget about that.”
Good luck with that one.