49ers, Ravens set to clash in the Harbaugh Bowl

On Championship Sunday, the 49ers roared back from a first-quarter deficit to knock off the top-seeded Falcons and the Ravens overcame their Championship Game demons to beat the heavily favored Patriots.

The wins by San Francisco and Baltimore sets up a Super Bowl match-up between brothers Jim and John Harbaugh in the Crescent City on Feb. 3.

Can you ever recall a clash of brothers like this? Usually the brotherly showdowns occur on the grid iron, as in recent years sibling rivalries have been front and center.

  • The Pouncey Twins — Maurkice Pouncey, the elder of the Steelers, and Mike Pouncey, who just finished his second season in Miami.
  • The McCourty Twins — Devin McCourty has been a versatile member of the New England secondary over the last few years, while Jason McCourty has been the same in Tennessee.
  • The Manning Brothers — ever heard of ‘em? Peyton Manning just had an MVP-caliber season, coming off a reported four neck surgeries, but his Broncos came up a few plays short of playing for the right to go to the Super Bowl. Eli Manning had a disappointing campaign following his second Lombardi Trophy.
  • The Gronks — Though Rob Gronkowski is the most talented and well-known of the Gronk brothers, there are three in the NFL. Dan Gronkowski has been with four different teams, including the Browns, where he plays tight end now. Chris Gronkowski has been with three squads, but has found a niche with Manning and the Broncos at fullback.
  • The Matthews — Even more famous than his long, flowing blonde locks and his pretty humorous “Fat Head” commercial is the attacking style of play Clay Matthews displays. Casey Matthews just completed his second year with the Eagles.

And now a trip to the coaching ranks.

The loudest brotherly rivalry among coaches and coordinators is that of the Ryan Brothers.

Rex Ryan, entering his fifth year as head coach of the New York Jets, has been called a defensive genius. In New York, he’s also been called a blithering numskull for his handling of the Mark Sanchez-Tim Tebow controversy.

Rob Ryan was recently fired as defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys. Though his unit made tremendous strides in 2012 under his tutelage, Dallas GM/Owner Jerry Jones promised major changes within the organization, and just days later Ryan interviewed with the St. Louis Rams.

The second meeting

The first and only time the Harbaugh Brothers have clashed on the NFL stage, Baltimore came out on top, 16-6 on Thanksgiving 2011.

The Ravens moved to 6-0 at M&T Bank Stadium at the time, handed the Niners their second loss of the year. San Fran finished with only three regular-season losses in ’11.

It was certainly a different-looking team for both squads in their last meeting. Alex Smith was quarterbacking the 49ers. He completed 15 passes, threw an interception and was sacked nine times.

Joe Flacco, on the other hand, was kept on his feet. Ray Rice totaled 83 yards from scrimmage, and tight end Dennis Pitta scored the lone touchdown of the game.

Here’s what has changed:

  • Colin Kaepernick — the second-year quarterback out of Nevada has revamped what San Fran has done of the offensive side of the ball. Running the spread option from the pistol formation, Kaepernick has demonstrated the ability to exploit defenses with his legs or arm.
  • As the quarterback position was upgraded, the weapons did, too. Michael Crabtree has emerged as a viable downfield threat, and Vernon David proved to be the go-to option in the NFC Championship game.
  • After struggling down the stretch, Flacco has played near-perfectly in the post-season (very Eli Manning-esque, if you ask me). Flacco, playing for a contract and to disprove critics, has thrown 8 TD and no interceptions in the post-season.
  • With the change of offensive playcallers from Cam Cameron to Jim Caldwell, Rice has returned to be the focal point of Baltimore’s offense. In the playoffs, Rice has 316 total yards and two touchdowns.

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