Harbaughs make Super Bowl a family affair
American Football:When they were little, the Harbaugh brothers fought so heatedly that John, the older one, once recalled his mother wailing: “You’re brothers! You’re not supposed to act like this!”
John and Jim, the younger one, now have more in common than differences. They are the first brothers to be NFL head coaches, and last season they said they each sent game film to their adored father, Jack, a former college coach who inspired their careers.
And on Sunday, the brothers, separated in age by 15 months, grew that much closer, leading their teams - John’s Baltimore Ravens and Jim’s San Francisco 49ers - to conference championship victories on the road just hours apart, setting up a family feud twist on the Super Bowl in two weeks - the HarBowl.
“I don’t know if we had a dream this big,” John Harbaugh said. “We had a few dreams, we had a few fights. We had a few arguments. We will try to stay out of that business. We’ll let the two teams duke it out as much as possible.”
The Ravens’ 28-13 victory over the heavily favoured New England Patriots was their first win in three AFC championship game appearances in the last five years, and it returned them to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2000 season, when they trounced the Giants for the franchise’s only title.
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was at the height of his career then, the defensive player of the year and the unquestioned leader of a defence-dominated team that dragged the offence behind it to the championship.
Several weeks ago, Lewis announced that this season would be his last. After he tore his triceps early in the season, the Ravens had kept him off the injured reserve list in hopes he could return for the play-offs.
A deep play-off run seemed unlikely, though. The Ravens lost four of the last five games in the regular season and John Harbaugh even made the dramatic decision to change offensive coordinators in the final month of the season, a move that mirrored Jim’s decision to make the inexperienced Colin Kaepernick his starting quarterback after Alex Smith was injured.
The Ravens' offence has played nearly perfectly in three play-off victories - quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown eight touchdown passes and no interceptions - and so Lewis’s career will end on a fitting stage for one of the greatest defensive players in history, who has watched the transformation of the Ravens from a team that struggled to score touchdowns during their first championship run to one that outdueled the NFL’s best offence on Sunday night.