One of the most enticing and intriguing storylines in the long and colorful history of the Super Bowl now is upon us:
Welcome to the HarBowl.
It'll be Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers versus big brother John Harbaugh of the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. They became the first set of brothers to coach against one another in a Thanksgiving game in 2011, and now they'll renew a sibling rivalry that dates to their days growing up in the household where another coach -- father Jack Harbaugh -- taught his boys the lessons of football.
Just an astonishing turn of events for a family whose life has always revolved around their beloved sport. Jim Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback who coached in college and then the pros, against John Harbaugh, a former Eagles special-teams coach who took over the Ravens in 2008 and now is one step away from delivering the second Super Bowl title in franchise history.
Jim earned his ticket to New Orleans first with a 28-24 win over the Falcons in Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game. John followed suit later in the evening by beating the defending AFC champion Patriots, 28-13, at Gillette Stadium. "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 and let the two teams duke it out as much as possible."
Fat chance of that happening. Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh will be the central theme for the next two weeks, even if the two attempt to deflect the attention away from themselves. "Let's just all agree to forget about that," John said. "We did that last year. It got old last year." And it's about to get really old this year.
"I couldn't be more proud of Jim," John said. "Watching that [49ers] team play, they do reflect his personality. They have physical players. They run the ball, they throw the football. They have a quarterback making plays all over the place. They have a roughhouse defense. There's a reason they're in the Super Bowl. I'd like to think our two teams are very similar. It's going to be a great football game."
Sure looks that way -- even if it might be tough for Jack and his wife, Jackie, to deal with the mixed emotions of watching their two sons battle for the title.
When I asked John after the game what he thought his parents must be feeling, he replied: "I hope [Jack] is on his fourth or fifth beer right now. I hope he and Mom have a big hug going."
The Ravens will go to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2000 season, and Ray Lewis now has a chance to close out his Hall of Fame career with a second Super Bowl title. What a way to end a 17-year career.
Baltimore held Tom Brady & Co. to one touchdown pass and two field goals. Brady was intercepted twice and the Ravens' Joe Flacco had three TD passes and no interceptions. In this postseason, he has eight touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Flacco has beaten Peyton Manning and Brady in consecutive weeks, avenging last year's loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. "We keep putting ourselves in position a lot to win these games, and eventually, you're going to push through," Flacco said. "This is my fifth year here and this is the third time we've played in and the first time we've won."
Flacco rallied the Ravens beautifully after the Patriots took a 13-7 lead into the second half. He took the Ravens on two long scoring drives to give Baltimore a 21-13 lead.
Flacco was 6-for-9 for 64 yards on the drive that put the Ravens ahead 14-13 with 6:14 left in the third quarter. His 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dennis Pitta finished off the drive. He then led a 10-play, 63-yard drive capped by his 3-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin, who outleaped safety Devin McCourty to give Baltimore a 21-13 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Patriots still had plenty of time to answer, but running back Stevan Ridley fumbled on the next possession and the Ravens recovered at the Patriots' 47. It took Flacco only four plays to get the Ravens into the end zone for a third straight possession, putting the Ravens up 28-13 with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Boldin over cornerback Marquice Cole.
Enough time for another vintage Brady moment?
Yes, there was, but the future Hall of Fame quarterback couldn't get it done. He put the Patriots in scoring position but wound up misfiring on third- and fourth-down passes, failing to make up the two-score deficit.
Even then, there still was a chance. The Patriots forced a three-and-out on Baltimore's next possession, and Brady hit Wes Welker on a 36-yard pass to the Ravens' 24. But his next pass attempt was tipped by defensive end Pernell McPhee and intercepted by linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
So now it's time for the HarBowl. Oh, and sorry, Jim and John. We'll be talking about it plenty in the next two weeks. It's history, fellas. Enjoy the ride.