JOE BIDDLE: Ravens, 49ers head to Super Bowl XLVII
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -
Oh, brother where art thou?
That would be in New Orleans, for the Harbaugh family reunion, or Super Bowl XLVII if you will.
It's the first brother against brother coaching match up in Super Bowl history.
Both John and little brother Jim got there because of their road warrior teams that were the rage Sunday. Both Jim's San Francisco 49ers and John's Baltimore Ravens punched their tickets to The City That Never Sleeps for Super Bowl XLVII.
In addition, ageless All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis lives to pray one more game as his Ravens upset the favored New England Patriots, 28-13, preventing Patriots Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady from going back to the NFL's biggest stage.
In Atlanta, the Falcons built a 17-0 lead over the favored 49ers, but San Francisco blanked the Birds in the second half, outscoring them 14-0 to win the NFC championship game.
The Falcons came up 10 yards short when a fourth down pass to Roddy White fell to the Georgia Dome carpet, sending a raucous sellout crowd away to deal with yet another disappointment.
It kept Atlanta Coach Mike Smith, who labored years as an assistant coach at the college level, including the bulk of it as a defensive assistant and coordinator at Tennessee Tech, from reaching his first Super Bowl. The Falcons finished 14-4, but there will be only one team standing in two weeks.
Quarterback Matt Ryan was looking for his first NFC championship, but two turnovers and a three-and-out possession in the second half spelled the difference in the 28-24 loss. Still, they were confidant of staging a successful comeback on their final possession, much as they had accomplished the previous week.
Ryan fumbled away a shotgun snap and threw an interception that proved big in the 49ers ability to overcome the first half deficit.
Smith and Ryan will receive much of the blame from dejected Falcons fans and the media. When they needed big plays to slow down the 49ers momentum, they couldn't connect.
Both winning teams held halftime leads, but Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco was the difference for the Ravens while the defense did its thing, led by the inspirational leader Lewis.
It promises to be a Super Bowl with ample storylines. The Harbaugh family will never be the same.
Father Jack Harbaugh was head coach at Western Kentucky until he retired in 2002 after winning a Division I-AA national championship. The Harbaugh bloodline runs deep in the sport.
Jack better brace himself for suffocating media coverage for the net two weeks. He will be in front of more media members during that time than the number of Hilltopper fans his teams played before.
He will tell them the brothers, two years apart, grew up around Michigan football and the legendary Bo Schembechler, for whom Jack worked as an assistant coach.
He will tell them their personalities are different. But the one thing the Harbaugh brothers agree on and that is, without their father's influence, they would not be where they are today.
And Lewis will be sharing the Super Bowl stage with the Harbaughs. He is drawn to TV cameras like a moth to a flame.
"It's our time. It's our time,'' Lewis repeated in an emotional post-game ceremony in the Ravens locker room.
Lewis is retiring after this season, although he looks far from done if he wanted to continue what will be a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. It would not be a surprise if that happens, unless they win the Super Bowl and he will ride out of New Orleans in style.
It promises to be one of the better games in an event in which the actual game has often succumbed to the over-hype that has overshadows the game.
For the Harbaugh family, however, it will be a moment in time they will never forget. There will be no loser for them.
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