Harbaugh battle produced one heck of a Super Bowl
John Harbaugh walked across the field to shake his brother's hand. He called it the most difficult and emotional thing he's ever had to do.
"I told him I loved him," the Super Bowl winning coach said.
Jim Harbaugh said: "Congratulations."
"It was really hard," said John. "I've never experienced anything like that before."
The brothers Harbaugh combined to help put on one of the great Super Bowls in recent memory. A Super Bowl in two acts, almost three. With a hold-your-breath ending. And an emotional winner, an emotional team, a winning coach searching for words to explain what he felt after Super Bowl XLVII, an amazing victory that almost got away.
John Harbaugh was elated, for himself, for his team, for his friend and inspiration, O.J. Brigance, for the retiring Ray Lewis and the MVP you can no longer doubt, Joe Flacco, and for the kids from the Johns Hopkins Hospital who sent a video his way Friday that got his team ready for Sunday.
Sunday started out as John Harbaugh's day. He was handing his brother his lunch in the first half and early in the second until the power went out and he began to worry. He worried not so much about his team. He worried, because for his money his brother Jim is the best coach in all of football.
And he wasn't going to waste the 35-minute break for the power outage. He was going to regroup his football team.
"When it was 28-6 and the lights went out, whatever happened I just knew that with Jim Harbaugh being on the other side and after all those years we lived together, that that game was going to be a dogfight right to the end. There's no greater competitor. And the way that team played, right to the end, proves it."
It was right to the end. The final seconds, really. Jim Harbaugh's 49ers on the five-yard line with downs and time running out. With one play to call, Harbaugh made an odd one. He didn't put Colin Kaepernick, the robo quarterback, in position to win the game with his legs. Harbaugh called a pass play. Not a Kaepernick option. Why? He'll have to live with that one for a while. The final score, after a late safety, was 34-31. It almost ended up 36-34 for the Niners. Circumstances in the end, with play selection and execution, ended the game for Niners.
But Jim Harbaugh didn't mind the play, just hated the non-call by the officials. He thought there was defensive hold on the play. He thought there was a pass interference call missed a few plays earlier. He thought his Niners should have had one more play.
And then he complained about the officiating one more time.
On Baltimore's final play from scrimmage, rather than punt the ball with 11 seconds to play in a five-point game, the Ravens elected to take the safety. Just about everybody on Baltimore held or tackled everybody on the San Francisco 49ers. Again no call was made.
"I looked for a call, even there. I didn't understand it," Jim Harbaugh said. He had no quarrel with his brother or the Ravens. He had quarrel with calls made and not made that changed the game.
John Harbaugh looked at it differently. He was so excited for Ray Lewis in his final game to end the game on a goal-line stand. "Can you believe that?" said Harbaugh. "And Ray said it up on the podium. How could it end any other way?"
And then the coach said, "It's never pretty. It's never perfect. But it is us."
It is them, just as it was something of a storybook Super Bowl. The storylines were apparent all week long. The brothers Harbaugh. The end of Lewis. The many internal and external dedications for the Ravens, who lost a brother, a former owner, and have a front office executive fighting for his life every day as they do their jobs. This is a team of likable champions, the celebrating Lewis aside, who did little on the field in his final game. The stars Sunday night were named Joe Flacco and Jacoby Jones and Colin Kaepernick for a half and the catches of Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis.
This was a Super Bowl for the ages, a lights-out performance for both teams. We knew one Harbaugh was going to win, one was going to lose, but weren't sure which was which. The end came, a great moment for John, said Jim. A game ending handshake and a feeling that this may have been a first for the brothers Harbaugh, it won't be the last.