One can only imagine the amount of pride parents must feel as they watch their children reach the pinnacle of their respective professions and earn the opportunity to accomplish a lifelong goal, but it’s even harder to understand what it would be like if the parents realized that the dreams of one child came at the expense of the others'. That’s exactly the predicament Jack and Jackie Harbaugh found themselves in on Sunday night, as they watched their sons, Coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens and Coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers, lead their teams to victory and set up quite a family reunion in New Orleans at Super Bowl XLVII. Or, as it will certainly be called from here on out, the 2013 Harbaugh Bowl.
The Harbaughs’ incredible night began with plenty of drama at the Georgia Dome, as Jim and the 49ers (11-4-1) completed a wild comeback to beat the No. 1 seeded Atlanta Falcons (13-3) in the NFC Championship Game by a score of 28-24. By the second quarter, the Niners were in a 17-0 hole after Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan hit wide receiver Julio Jones for a pair of touchdowns, but the 49ers showed why many had them nabbed as Super Bowl favorites at season's start. Their tough defensive unit put the brakes on Matty Ice, the multifaceted running game got on track, and sensational quarterback Colin Kaepernick continued his electric play.
LaMichael James broke the seal with a stellar, 15- yard touchdown run, and then Kaepernick hit a resurgent Vernon Davis on a 4-yard touchdown pass that closed the gap to 14-17. Ryan then hit Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez for a 10-yard touchdown to push the lead to 24-14 at halftime, but that was the last time Atlanta scored. 49ers Running back Frank Gore ran for a touchdown in each of the remaining quarters to cement the 28-24 comeback and give the 49ers franchise the opportunity to claim a record-tying sixth overall Super Bowl title. The victory was the second-largest comeback win in the history of the NFC Championship Game, as the Niners came one point shy of the Colt’s 18-points rally to beat the Patriots in 2007. After this one, there’s no doubt Jack and Jackie were simply elated.
But the proud parent’s night was far from over, as their focus shifted to the chill of Foxboro, Massachusetts, where John was ready to lead his Ravens (10-6) past against Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the New England Patriots (12-4). In addition to the potential Harbaugh Bowl now being a real possibility, this AFC Championship battle was laden with plotlines. Ravens’ future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis was possibly playing his last game after announcing hisretirement earlier in the year, and he was on a quest for the franchise's second Super Bowl, having led them to victory in an MVP effort in 2001 over the New York Giants. Also, last season the Patriots beat the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game after Baltimore missed 32-yard-field-goal as time ran out, so this was Coach Harbaugh’s shot at redemption.
The Pats lead,13-7, at halftime, and the situation already seemed dire for Baltimore considering that Brady and Belichick hadn't lost an AFC championship at home and were 67-0 at in Foxboro when they held a halftime lead. But the Ravens defense was inspired by Lewis and clamped down in the second half, shutting out the Pats for the remainder of the game. Flacco threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns en route to becoming the first QB to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons and earned the most road wins in playoff history (6). Lewis recorded 14 tackles, bringing his playoff total to 44, which leads all defenders in this season’s playoffs; not bad for a 17-year veteran who tore his triceps back in December. When it was all said and done, the Ravens prevailed, 28-13, and booked their first trip to the Super Bowl in 12 years. That, and the Harbaughs made history again.
Back on Thanksgiving Day in 2011, the brothers became the only siblings to coach against each other an NFL game; the Ravens topped the 49ers, 16-6. But that's the tip of the iceberg for this NFL family. The patriarch, Jack, led Western Kentucky to a Divisional I-AA National Championship; John paid his dues as an NCAA coach and worked with the Eagles, before heading up Baltimore; and Jim was a 15-year NFL quarterback, including a stint with the Ravens in 1998, and then headed up the Stanford Cardinal, before taking over San Fran. And in their tenures, John, who is 50-years-old, is 54-26, and 8-4 in playoffs; while Jim, who is 49-years-old, is 24-8 overall, and 3-1 in playoffs. Neither brother has missed the playoffs In their combined seven seasons as NFL head coaches, and last year both led their teams to their respective conference championship games. This time, they're headed for the big one.
Super Bowl XLVII will feature everything fans could hope for: multi-layered subplots with two top-notch coaches leading elite squads with dominating defenses and electric offenses. For the Ravens, the game marks a chance for Flacco to prove he's an elite quarterback, and the defense can help send their emotional and on-field leader riding into the sunset as a champion one more time. Already during these playoffs, the Ravens D has shown that they can contain some of the league’s best quarterbacks, as they did with Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, and Tom Brady and the Patriots. With running back Ray Rice, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, and a mammoth defense led by Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs, Flacco and the Ravens look ready for anything that comes their way.
For the 49ers, they’ll have a shot at adding to their 5-0 Super Bowl legacy behind Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young, and they can launch a potential dynasty behind the emergening Kaepernick. The second-year, dual-threat quarterback has wowed fans and shown that he’s one of the most dynamic players in the league. And with playoff victories over Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay packers and Matt Ryan’s Atlanta Falcons already under his belt, the sky is the limit. He’ll benefit from Gore and James in the backfield, receivers Michael Crabtree and Ted Ginn, Jr., and a suffocating Niners defense led by Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, and Carlos Rogers. With this much talent on the field, no one will be shocked if the 49ers send Lewis and the Raven's hoome empty.
Thankfully, this elite competition has no one quite sure what will be the outcome in the first brother-versus-brother coaching matchup in Super Bowl history, but at least two things are for sure: Jack and Jackie Harbaugh will have an interesting Christmas, and the Big Easy will be in store for one of the most exciting and anticipated games in recent memory. Kickoff time for Super Bowl XLVII, or better yet, the Harbaugh Bowl, is slated for Sunday, February 3rd at 6:30 p.m. ET inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Vivid Seats has plenty of 2013 Superbowl tickets to get you inside to experience this phenomenal matchup in person, so check out all of our San Francisco 49ers tickets and Baltimore Ravens tickets today before they’re all sold out and be a part of NFL history live.