Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh.
Leading up to Super Bowl XLVII, the coaching matchup between John and Jim Harbaugh has been tracked back to their shared -- but divided -- childhood bedroom and built up to obscure the many other persons who will have a hand in determining which team will lift the Lombardi Trophy. Separated by 15 months in age and soon to be separated by the width of the football field at the Superdome, the Harbaugh brothers became the first sibling head coaches to match wits and players' hits in an NFL game on Thanksgiving 2011. They'll be making more NFL history tonight.
"I don't know if we had a dream this big. We had a few dreams, we had a few fights. You know, we had a few arguments, just like all brothers," John told reporters after the Ravens clinched a berth in the Super Bowl. "We'll try to stay out of that business. We'll let the two teams duke it out as much as possible."
On the field, John's Ravens will be faced with the task of containing San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The dynamic dual-threat out of Nevada (which might have something to do with all the prop bets involving him) set a single-game rushing record with 181 yards on the ground against the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round. With the Atlanta Falcons' defense focused on keeping the fleet-footed Kaepernick from getting to outside, the 25-year-old handed off to running backs to Frank Gore and LaMichael James and picked apart the defense with his strong arm. The 49ers' multi-faceted pistol offense has yet to be stopped in the playoffs.
“You name it, we got it,” San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman told The New York Times, speaking about the team's diverse offensive offerings since Kaepernick supplanted Alex Smith as the team's starting signal caller. “We’re like the diner.”
Of course, these Baltimore Ravens know a thing or two about defeating high-profile quarterbacks, having ended the seasons of Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady en route to the Super Bowl. Riding an emotional wave (which may have crested due to that PED report in SI) that began when linebacker Ray Lewis announced his retirement ahead of the postseason, Baltimore's charmed run to New Orleans has already included two upsets. With the oddsmakers favoring Jim's 49ers in New Orleans, the Ravens will need a third upset if they're to celebrate tonight. If they pull off another win against a favored foe then quarterback Joe Flacco will likely have a (right) hand in the outcome.
In the Ravens' double-overtime win over Manning's Broncos, Flacco came up with the game-saving 70-yard touchdown pass in the waning moments of regulation. A week later, he outplayed Brady in New England. Despite throwing one of the most dangerous deep balls in the game, even Flacco's father described him as "dull" leading up to the Super Bowl. A win on the game's grandest stage will go a long way toward changing that perception.
Which quarterback will come through with the key play? Can the Lewis and the Ravens' defense keep the pistol misfiring? Will Flacco's big arm bring some excitement to the 47th Super Bowl? Or will the Super Bowl commercials be the most memorable aspect of the broadcast?