|Alex Smith gets buried, and so seemingly do the 49ers' chances of challenging the Packers. (Getty Images)|
BALTIMORE -- The brothers Harbaugh met at midfield before the game and no fewer than 25 cameras were there to greet the bro' hug. John v. Jim: cute tale, historic, interesting.
Nice to see and all, but that wasn't the story. The story was how one brother exposed his sibling's team as the semi-fraud many believe it is.
San Francisco coach Jim has done an excellent job rescuing the 49ers from the bowels of football and quarterback Alex Smith from the butt of jokes. Nonetheless, the 49ers are a one-dimensional team in the Green Bay Packers-owned NFL. It's the Packers' multi-dimensional world, everyone else is just a squirrel trying to get a stop.
The 49ers are supposed to be the greatest threat to the Packers. No way that's true. More than anything, that's what the Ravens proved in their 16-6 victory against San Francisco. It wasn't a dominating victory. It wasn't a blowout but it was convincing enough. The 49ers are a syrupy-sweet tale that a Baltimore defense without Ray Lewis still stripped bare and punched in the face.
By beating them this way, manhandling and disrupting at the core with an incredible nine sacks of Smith, and making Frank Gore a non-factor, they showed the 49ers for what they are: a team that should get a pat on the back but would get atomized by the big boys like Green Bay.
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By season's end, the 49ers will have built a healthy record mostly by devouring the NFC West, which is the worst division in football -- and maybe all of sports. The questions emerge about the 49ers once they depart those cushy confines and start playing with the big boys. They didn't help themselves with this performance.
Don't want to hear about time zone, either. The 49ers were 4-0 in the East until this game and the Ravens were on a short week, too.
Nine sacks. Nine. That tied a Baltimore single-game franchise record. Smith was hit so many times, Joe Montana felt it. "It's Thanksgiving," Ravens defensive tackle Cory Redding said, "there's a lot of turkey. We had to go out there and eat."
The 49ers defense is solid, but it can only hold for so long. In big spots, like this one, or the playoffs, Smith can't be hidden. He has to be front and center, and while the 49ers offensive line was a mess against Baltimore, we also saw the old Smith reemerge. He got happy feet under pressure, scrambled too much, and lacked accuracy.
Against the better franchises, that can't happen. Smith can't be a blemish to be hidden with the makeup that is Gore and a good defense. He has to lead and be productive. You can't expect him to be Aaron Rodgers, but Smith can't be the old Smith.
After this game, you got the feeling the Packers have a clear path to the Super Bowl as threats to them within the NFC are falling like bowling pins. The 49ers, the New York Giants, the Chicago Bears, the Philadelphia Eagles -- the Dallas Cowboys are improving but Tony Romo throws picks the way San Francisco gave up sacks -- none are in the Packers' class.
What you wanted Smith to do was what quarterback Joe Flacco did in the third quarter. After San Francisco tied the score at 6, Flacco led Baltimore on a 16-play, 76-yard drive that lasted 7 minutes and 34 seconds. He was cool, smart and made excellent choices. That drive killed a 49ers defense that was supposed to be so formidable.
"They have a really good chance to go to the Super Bowl," John said of his brother's 49ers.
That's brotherly support and love talking, because that 49ers team, the one the Ravens' defense bent over their knee, wouldn't last a half against the Packers.
Jim said after the game, and after he hugged his brother, "I congratulated him and told him I loved him." It was a nice moment.
The Harbowl was a good story more for one brother than the other. John's Ravens are going places while Jim's 49ers have the unfortunate situation of being in the same conference with the Packers.
Good luck with that, bro'.