It was a brotherly love affair between the Harbaugh family as brothers Jim and John squared off for the first time from their sidelines.
In prime time on the national stage on a pleasant, chilled Thanksgiving evening in Baltimore, the Ravens (8-3) defense showed their potential under study defense of the San Francisco 49ers (9-2) how to completely dominate a game. The Ray Lewis-less Ravens defense, led by linebacker Terrell Suggs who had three sacks, punished 49ers quarterback Alex Smith and their offense towards a 16-6 victory.
“They (the NFL) want to see touchdowns. They want to see a whole lot of yards. It’s not a bad thing,” said Suggs when asked if the increased offense around the NFL has put pressure on the Ravens’ defense. “We’re going to do what we are going to do best, and that’s play defense. We plan on coming to work and we’ll have our hard hats and lunch pails.”
The top story of the Ravens/49ers matchup was Jim and John. John is in his fourth season as an NFL head coach (all with the Ravens), and Jim is in his rookie season for the Niners. These brothers did everything together from playing in the yard to playing on the same baseball team.
Although Jim (47) had a successful NFL playing career spanning 15 seasons, older brother John (49) led the way in discovering life and opportunities.
“John has knocked down many barriers for me,” said 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh in his press conference Monday.
Apparently, an additional barrier was added to Jim by his brother was his defensive unit as they sacked Smith nine times with countless hits and made their goal for the number seed of the NFC playoff bracket much tougher as the Green Bay Packers’ lead increased to two games.
The Harbaugh brothers made NFL history as the first siblings to coach against each other as head coaches for their respective clubs. The Harbaugh brothers joined a group of fortunate head coaching siblings—the NBA’s Jeff (1996–2007) and Stan Van Gundy (2003–2011) and Larry (1976–2010) and Herb Brown (1975-1977), MLB’s Rene (1981-1996) and Marcel Lachemann (1994-1996) and the NFL’s Ted (1920-1922) and Al Nesser (1926).
The first half was dominated by both teams’ defenses, but the Ravens’ defensive line got more consistent penetration up front to pressure Smith, who completed 15 out of 24 for 140 yards and an interception, and took all of running back Frank Gore’s running lanes as he gained 21 yards off eight carries.
Ravens running back Ray Rice, who finished with 59 yards on 21 carries, did not fare well either early in the contest as he gained 39 yards on 12 carries.
The Ravens tempted to break the 49ers’ streak of not allowing a rushing touchdown in 10 consecutive games—the first team since the 1997 49ers and the 1986 New York Jets. Moreover, the Ravens ended the 49ers’ eight-game winning streak.
After a huge defensive pass interference penalty on the 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown, spanning 50 yards, the Ravens got to the 49ers’ 1 off a 3-yard carry by Rice. However, the Ravens were unsuccessful after two more attempts.
With a tied defensive battle at 6-6 entering the fourth quarter, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco orchestrated a 16-play drive to set up an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dennis Pitta, the first of his career. That drive took 7:34 off the clock.
The Ravens’ long touchdown drive proved to be enough to win the contest, while the defense performed masterfully in dominating fashion.
Flacco completed 15 out of 23 attempts for 161 yards and a touchdown.