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Judgements: Enough already with brother-vs.-brother chatter

by | Senior NFL Columnist

Baltimore's John Harbaugh has an urgent plea for those waiting to dissect the Har-Bowl: Don't. And I'm with him.

Granted, it's brother vs. brother, with John and Jim Harbaugh making history and all that, but the subject is old -- with people speculating on it a year ago when the brothers finished a game short of the Super Bowl.

Now that they're in, get ready for a lot of questions of what it feels like -- with John Harbaugh accommodating his listeners. For now.

"I don't know if we had a dream this big," he said. "We had a few dreams, a few fights. We had a few arguments, just like all brothers. We'll try to stay out of that business. We’ll let the two teams duke it out as much as possible."

Yeah? Good luck with that. It's going to be two weeks of all-Harbaugh-all-the-time.

"Let's just cut that out," John laughed when asked if the country could stand it. "Could we all agree on that? We did that last year, and it got old."

Asked if his father would go along with his idea, he nodded. "My dad's definitely on board with that," he said. "He doesn't do interviews anyway. We'll pass on that and talk about the two teams."

If only we could.

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2. Harbaugh is right when he said his Ravens resemble his brother's team, but it's not just their physical defense, quarterback play or running games that make them alike. It's two gutsy in-season decisions, with Jim changing quarterbacks and John dumping his offensive coordinator with three weeks left in the season. Neither was afraid to take the leap, and look where it has them: The 49ers are 7-2 with Colin Kaepernick, and the Ravens 4-2 with Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator.

3. The Ravens aren't supposed to have the defense to stop Kaepernick and San Francisco's passing attack, but tell that to Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. They just combined for four touchdowns in three games (two Denver scores were on returns). That should count for something.

4. John Harbaugh on his young brother: "He's a great coach, a great man, a great competitor. Everybody who knows him knows that about him. He competes in everything. He'll be full force, he'll be bringing it." And John won't? Please.

5. John and Jim's parents didn't attend either game Sunday, but that won't happen in two weeks. Count on both at Super Bowl XLVII. "My mom and dad are tough," John Harbaugh said. "They'll be fine. They're coming. He'll say he's not coming, but they'll be there."

6. Matt Ryan was the first quarterback taken in the 2008 draft; Joe Flacco was the second. When people tell me they'd rather have Ryan, I tell them this: Flacco is 8-4 in the playoffs and going to his first Super Bowl. Ryan is 1-4 and checking his next tee time. Check, please.

7. Hard to believe, but since Flacco came into the league he has eight playoff victories, while Tom Brady has ... three? Say it ain't so, Joe.

8. It's been a good year for San Francisco. First, the World Series. Now this.

9. I'm not sure who does more interviews next week: Joe Flacco or Joe Linta. Linta is Flacco's agent and the guy looking for a megabuck deal for his quarterback. He's been talking up his client as a "top-five elite quarterback," and Flacco has the stage to make his case.

10. The Patriots not only didn't beat Baltimore, they didn't overcome the odds. Super Bowl losers generally flop the following season, and while the Patriots did not they also didn't get to a second straight NFL Championship Game. But that's the rule. There hasn't been a Super Bowl loser to return to the Super Bowl a second straight year since the 1994 Buffalo Bills.

11. I don't know what Kaepernick does to Baltimore, but I have a pretty good idea what kind of game Flacco has against San Francisco. Big. In the 49ers' four playoff games the past two seasons, opposing quarterbacks have thrown for 1,431 yards (an average of 358 per game), 11 touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 94.3.

12. I can't believe I'm saying this but ... Billy Cundiff, please stand by.

13. The Patriots' Aqib Talib just made himself a lot of money. So he's no Darrelle Revis. He's better than any cornerback the Patriots had out there Sunday, and you don’t believe me you weren't watching the second half when Flacco shredded the Patriots' secondary for three touchdowns.

14. Matt Ryan + Tom Brady = four second-half turnovers and no second-half points.

15. Look at it this way, Atlanta. By losing you're spared having to watch a one-armed Ryan in Super Bowl XLVII.

16. Atlanta has only itself to blame. The Falcons blew a 20-0 lead and 17-0 lead in back-to-back playoff games ... at home, no less. Ouch.

17. I'm not sure who went through Atlanta faster: Colin Kaepernick or William T. Sherman.

18. Now, more than ever, I'm convinced no one knows what constitutes a catch.

19. Maybe there should be no mad dash to be the NFC's top seed. The Falcons' loss marks the fifth time in six years the NFC's No. 1 seed failed to make the Super Bowl, and the second time that team was Atlanta.

20. Let's just call it a bad week for Michael Crabtree.

21. The Ravens' Harbaugh is one of the league's most underappreciated coaches. The guy has been to the playoffs in all five of his seasons as head coach, the conference championship game three times and the Super Bowl once. Moreover, he went into this year without the Defensive Player of the Year, lost Ray Lewis, lost his best cornerback, juggled his offensive line and somehow winds up in his first Super Bowl. The Ravens gambled when they hired Harbaugh, who was a special-teams coach for most of his career in Philadelphia. Let that be a lesson to the rest of the league.

22. Guaranteed, Alex Smith will be a popular interview at the Super Bowl. People want to know where he's going next.

23. This is why Jay Cutler should welcome the arrival of Marc Trestman: When Trestman was offensive coordinator in Oakland in 2002, the Raiders threw a league-high 619 times, including a game in Pittsburgh where they opened with 10 passes, 17 throws on their first 18 snaps and 64 by game's end; they had the second-highest completion percentage (67.5, the lowest interception percentage (1.6) and the highest passer rating (97.2). Oh, yeah, Rich Gannon was the league MVP under Trestman's tutelage, too.

24. I don't like Frank Gore's chances of rushing for 100 yards in Super Bowl XLVII. The Ravens have allowed just one 100-yard rusher (Arian Foster) in 20 playoff appearances.

25. If you're looking for a guarantee next week I suggest you start with the Ravens' Anquan Boldin. He's the guy who said he wanted to play Denver, and he's the guy who predicted victory over New England. "We came here last year and left with a bitter taste in our mouth," he said after Sunday's win. "We felt like this team [New England] took something away from us. And we wanted to come back and make that right."

Five things I like

1. Eddie DeBartolo and one of San Francisco's honorary captains. The 49ers tried it a year ago and lost. So they try it again, and Mr. D. is back in a familiar place ... only this time with his nephew running the club.

2. Joe Flacco in the playoffs. The guy has eight touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 114.67. Oh, yeah, he also knocked off Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in successive weeks ... on the road, no less.

3. Ken Whisenhunt as San Diego's offensive coordinator. Someone should've hired him as their next head coach, but nobody did. So San Diego scored a coup by landing him as Philip Rivers' tutor.

4. Jim Harbaugh's meltdown on Harry Douglas' catch. He went ballistic, and he should have. It sure looked as if the ball moved when he hit the turf. If the 49ers had lost we'd still be hearing about it.

5. San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis' take on Sunday's game. "Of course, we're better than the Falcons." He said that before the game, and he was right.

Five things I don’t

1. No minority hires as head coaches. There were eight openings. None went to minorities. OK, so Lovie Smith disqualified himself. Are you going to tell me there weren't more coaches out there as capable or attractive? I understand the Rooney Rule was in effect, but you'd think there would be at least one finalist in there. But I didn't see one.

2. San Francisco's Aldon Smith since Justin Smith was hurt. The guy had 19.5 sacks this season, but none after Justin returned from a torn triceps. A coincidence? Nope.

3. Atlanta vs. tight ends. Zach Miller gashed these guys for 142 yards last week. His previous high was 59. Vernon Davis had five catches on them Sunday for 106 yards. Until then, he had five consecutive games with one in each and no more than two in any of his last seven starts.

4. That non-call on Navarro Bowman. Sorry, but it sure looked like he held Roddy White on that fourth-down pass.

5. Tom Brady vs. Baltimore. I don't know what it is about the Ravens, but the guy just doesn't play well against them, and the envelope, please. In his last six games vs. Baltimore, he's 3-3, with six touchdown passes and nine interceptions.

Five guys who have some 'splaining to do

1. New England wide receiver Wes Welker. It's déjà vu all over again, with Welker muffing a third-down catch that ended a key second-half drive. Sound familiar? Instead of sustaining a scoring drive, the Patriots were forced to punt ... with Baltimore scoring the go-ahead touchdown on the next series.

2. New England quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick. Geez, what was that clock management at the end of the first half? The Pats had one timeout, but didn't use it until four seconds remained. I'd expect that from someone else. Not these guys.

3. San Francisco kicker David Akers. Now he misses a 37-yarder to tie the game, and enough is enough.

4. Atlanta defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. The 49ers punted only once after their first two possessions, and one reason is Atlanta's failure to cover the tight ends for the second straight week. Question for Mike Nolan: You have heard of Vernon Davis, haven't you?

5. Atlanta wide receiver Harry Douglas. He was lucky his third-down reception on Atlanta's last next-to-last drive wasn't ruled incomplete, but Douglas doesn't get off easily. He not only should've caught the ball cleanly; he might have scored had he not slowed down prior to the catch before falling down.

Just asking, but ...

 What hurts Manti Te'o's draft status more -- this or the BCS championship game?

 Would you have made the call on that hit to Kaepernick's head?

 Which Harbaugh would you rather have as head coach?

 Was that it for Tony Gonzalez?

 Was that Wes Welker's last game as a Patriot?

By the numbers

0 -- Atlanta and New England's second half point total

1-4 -- Matt Ryan in the playoffs

2 -- San Francisco sacks in the playoffs

2-2 -- Colin Kaepernick in domes

2-16 -- Joe Flacco on the road when trailing at the half

3-9 -- San Francisco in road playoff games

6 -- Joe Flacco road playoff victories

7-7 -- Tom Brady in his last 14 playoff games

67-1 -- New England at home when Tom Brady starts and Pats have halftime lead


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