In a cat-and-mouse game, John made the winning move at the end in the battle of Harbaugh brothers on Super Bowl Sunday.
Jim had rolled the dice earlier when he let the clock run down in the final two minutes, as the 49ers tried for the touchdown that would have likely won the game for them because there would be so little time left for the Baltimore Ravens. But a fourth-down pass from Colin Kaepernick sailed beyond the reach of Michael Crabtree.
Because the 49ers only had one timeout left, the Ravens could run the clock down to 11 seconds. They went into punt formation but didn’t kick the ball, as punter Sam Koch ran around the end zone for several seconds before he ran out of bounds, taking a safety. That brought the 49ers within three points, but it also gave the Ravens a free kick from their 20. Time ran out as Ted Ginn was tackled in the middle of the field.
It was that kind of game all the way. John Harbaugh had an aggressive game plan, even disdaining a field goal at one point and having kicker Justin Tucker run on fourth-and-nine. It fell a yard short but it made a point to his team — and the Ravens soon got the ball back in good field position.
And late in the game, as the Ravens were driving for what could have been a touchdown that would have put the game out of reach, quarterback Joe Flacco passed up the chance to get a first down with a run on third-and-one and instead threw a pass that receiver Anquan Boldin went up in the air to get for a big gain. That drive eventually stalled, and the Ravens had to settle for a field goal, but it took considerable time off the clock.
The Ravens’ offensive coordinator, Jim Caldwell, a former head coach who deserves another shot at that job, made a smart call on the Ravens’ third touchdown. Knowing that Chris Culliver was playing very tight defense, he had receiver Jacoby Jones fake a move to the outside and then cut toward the middle of the field, which left him wide open for Flacco’s throw. Jones fell making a catch but wasn’t touched, so he was able to spin and get into the end zone after he got up.
It was obvious that the Ravens had done a very thorough job of scouting the 49ers. For one thing, they realized that the injury to Justin Smith had greatly reduced the Niners’ run defense and also their ability to rush the passer because Smith no longer tied up two or even three blockers trying to keep him out of the backfield. That meant they could run up the middle effectively, which they did the entire game and also that Flacco generally had the protection he needed to throw downfield.
The Ravens’ edge in game-planning made it seem they would win easily until the power outage seemed to suck the life out of them temporarily.
But they had just enough left in the tank to give John Harbaugh bragging rights this offseason.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.