By Jay Betsill
The 47th Meeting Between the NFC’s & AFC’s best has some of the best storylines ever
Jim Harbaugh vs. John Harbaugh aka the “Har Bowl”
When the topic of proud parents or a sibling rivalry arises in the NFL chatter, it usually revolves around Peyton and Eli Manning and their proud father, Archie. Now there is a new family to be included in the exclusive conversation because for the first time in the NFL, two brothers will square off in the Super Bowl. The two teams that advanced are being led by Jim and John Harbaugh, head coaches for the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens.
“I like reading history. I guess it’s pretty neat,” said John Harbaugh, the older of the two brothers. “But is it really going to be written about? It’s not exactly like Churchill and Roosevelt or anything. It’s pretty cool, but that’s as far as it goes.”
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” Jim Harbaugh said. “A blessing because that is my brother’s team. And, also personally I played for the Ravens. Great respect for their organization. The curse part would be the talk of two brothers playing in the Super Bowl and that takes away from the players that are in the game.”
Jim Harbaugh put the ball in the hands of Colin Kaepernick back in November, when his starter, Alex Smith, suffered a concussion. When he had two guys that he deemed to both have “hot hands,” Harbaugh stuck with Kaepernick even when Smith was cleared to return, a decision that was questioned by many experts and fans alike. After all, Smith fell just three points shy of making last year’s Super Bowl when the 49ers fell in the NFC title game to the eventual champion New York Giants.
The Harbaughs have already faced off once, on Thanksgiving 2011 with Baltimore winning an ugly contest, 16-6. After the Ravens beat New England in the AFC Championship game, John was asked about two weeks of brotherly hype. “Let’s just cut that right now, you know what I mean?” he said. “Can we all agree? Let’s just forget about that.” While many fans and even distant followers of the NFL will have heard their fair share of the “Har Bowl” talk by mid-week, I am not real sure John is going to get his wish on that one.
Ray Lewis to play final game in Super Bowl
Since Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis announced on January 2 his ‘last ride’ in the NFL would coincide with the end of the Ravens’ postseason run, there was the possibility that each game would be his final journey out onto an NFL playing field. After victories on the road in Denver and New England, there is no longer any doubt: Win or lose, Lewis will do battle for the final time in New Orleans.
“It’s going to be a great day, period, no matter what happens. And that’s kind of the way I’ve approached it,” the 17-year veteran linebacker said. “I haven’t even said, ‘Oh man, this is your last game, what do you think?’ I really haven’t. Because I just really am keeping my teammates focused on the real prize.”
The last time Lewis played on the NFL’s biggest stage, the 13-time Pro Bowl selection earned MVP honors in Baltimore’s 34-7 win over the Kerry Collins-led New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.
And, of course, it is impossible when mentioning Lewis and the Super Bowl to omit the incident after Super Bowl XXXV in Atlanta when two men died of stab wounds after a fight with members of Lewis’ entourage outside a nightclub. Lewis and two of his friends, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, were charged with murder.
Lewis later agreed to plead guilty to obstruction of justice in exchange for the prosecution dropping murder charges against him. As part of his deal, Lewis testified against Oakley and Sweeting, who were subsequently acquitted of murder charges. Lewis would later pay settlements to victims’ Jacinth Baker’s grandmother and Richard Lollar’s fiancée. As for life after the NFL, Lewis reportedly spoke with multiple TV networks to provide commentary on pro football after his retirement. ESPN has offered Lewis a contract to work on its NFL programming beginning this summer, according to SI.
Randy Moss going for first Super Bowl ring. Again.
Still seeking his first Super Bowl ring as he heads into his eighth postseason, Randy Moss has shared his playoff experiences with his 49ers teammates and it’s been particularly beneficial to the young players like Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree. While there has been a lot of conversation on Ray Lewis getting his second ring before his retirement, the veteran who could have the biggest impact on the game is a rejuvenated Moss who returned to the NFL after returning from a short-lived retirement.
“Randy’s been great,” running back Frank Gore said of the man who has caught more touchdowns than anyone except Jerry Rice. “He’s been here before, and he’s happy to be back, to get to our goal and that’s to win the Super Bowl.”
Moss caught 28 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season. He added two receptions for 25 yards in the 49ers’ 45- 31 victory over the Green Bay Packers in an NFC divisional playoff game. The future Hall of Fame receiver took on a heightened role when starter Mario Manningham suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Seattle Seahawks on December 23.
While Moss isn’t the same force as he was in his last trip to the Super Bowl in 2007 when he had 98 receptions for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns during New England’s perfect 16-0 regular season, the NFL’s active leader in receiving yards has become an undisputed leader on the NFC champions. With San Francisco having so many weapons on offense including Kaepernick, Gore, Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis, Moss could get lost in the Ravens’ defensive game plan and wind up being the difference in whether the 49ers add a sixth Lombardi Trophy to the franchise’s collection.