Harbaughs move on after sharing Thanksgiving
BALTIMORE (AP) — The Harbaugh brothers met in the middle of the field, hugged, expressed their love for each other and headed off in opposite directions.
After their much-anticipated, oft-analyzed and historic confrontation was over, John and Jim Harbaugh expressed gratitude over having the opportunity to face each other on Thanksgiving.
John was just little bit happier, of course, because his Baltimore Ravens beat Jim's San Francisco 49ers 16-6 Thursday night.
"I felt really humble, just thankful," John said. "Running across the field to my brother — he's my best friend, along with Mom and Dad and my wife. You don't put yourself in many other coaches' shoes, but you can put yourself in your brother's shoes. I'm really proud of him."
Although the 49ers (9-2) had their eight-game winning streak end, Jim Harbaugh was thankful for the experience of coaching against John in the first NFL game with two brothers on opposite sidelines as head coaches.
"I was proud to be part of it, proud to be part of the family," Jim said. "I was thankful on Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful thing."
Asked what he said to John, he replied, "I congratulated him and told him I loved him."
John, 49, and Jim, 47, grew up dueling each other in all sorts of games. This, however, was the first time their sibling rivalry was displayed on a national stage.
During the final minute, John got a Gatorade bath from his players — twice. After the game ended, the brothers hugged at midfield.
"There's a saying that says, 'As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another,'" Jim said. "And I have to say my brother John is the sharpest iron I've ever encountered in my life."
The Ravens (8-3) sacked 49ers quarterback Alex Smith nine times, tying a franchise record, despite playing without middle linebacker Ray Lewis, the team's leading tackler and spiritual leader. Lewis was inactive for a second straight game with a foot injury.
Smith completed 15 of 24 passes for 140 yards and an interception, and San Francisco was held without a touchdown for the first time this season. Smith never could get into a rhythm against an aggressive defense that rarely let him set up in the pocket.
"It's tough to get ready for a defense like that in a short week. They do so many things," he said. "They're a great front. At home with the crowd noise, they were teeing off."
Terrell Suggs had three sacks for first-place Baltimore, which moved a half-game ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North.
"That's always the game plan, to get after the quarterback, but I think the No. 1 game plan was to win the Harbaugh Bowl," Suggs said. "Coach tried to downplay it — act like it's not me against my brother, this is the Ravens vs. the 49ers and let's get win No. 8 and make sure our destiny is in our own hands — but it was really important to him. We as a team went out there and really wanted to win for him."
Now that it's over, the Harbaughs can put their rivalry on hold and get back to winning football games for reasons that involve division crowns and home-field advantage.
"For those two guys, they're probably glad it's over," Ravens center Matt Birk said. "They can breathe a sigh of relief, and now we can move on. Tonight just solidified that they're two great coaches with two pretty good football teams."
Baltimore broke a 6-6 tie with a 76-yard, 16-play drive that lasted more than 7½ minutes and ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to tight end Dennis Pitta with 14:56 left. Flacco went 4 for 4 for 34 yards and a touchdown on third down during the drive.
"When you have that kind of game plan — your line being so efficient on third downs — you have to come through," Flacco said.
Billy Cundiff wrapped up the scoring with his third field goal, a 39-yarder with 4:16 remaining.
In a game dominated by both defenses, Flacco finished 15 for 23 for 161 yards and Ray Rice ran for 59 yards on 21 carries.
The 49ers began the third quarter with a 13-play drive that lasted 7½ minutes and produced a 52-yard field goal by David Akers for a 6-6 tie. The key play was an 18-yard completion from Smith to Michael Crabtree on a third-and-17 from the San Francisco 26.
The Ravens responded with their lone touchdown drive of the game.
Baltimore sacked Smith four times in the first half and picked off a pass in taking a 6-3 lead.
NOTES: Baltimore has won all six home games and 15 of 16. ... Gore finished with 39 yards on 14 carries. ... Although the Ravens had a first-and-goal at the 4 in second quarter, the 49ers held and kept intact their distinction of not allowing a rushing TD all season. ... Lee Evans had a catch for the Ravens, his first reception since Week 2 after missing seven games with an ankle injury.