Published January 21, 2013
A sibling rivalry will be playing out in New Orleans.
John Harbaugh and his Baltimore Ravens set up a family reunion in the Big Easy, shutting down the New England Patriots 28-13 Sunday in the AFC championship game.
Waiting for them will be his younger brother, Jim, and the San Francisco 49ers, who beat Atlanta 28-24 for the NFC title. It's the first Super Bowl where siblings will go head to head as coaches of opposing teams.
"I'd like to think that our two teams are very similar," said John Harbaugh, who is a year older than Jim. "I'd like to think when you look at those two teams, you are looking at mirror images of two football teams."
What the Ravens (13-6) are looking at is their first Super Bowl in 12 years, thanks to three touchdown passes from Joe Flacco and a defense led by Ray Lewis that made Tom Brady look downright ordinary.
It will be quite a last game for Lewis, the emotional linebacker who will retire after the matchup with the 49ers, who opened as a 5-point favorite.
"For me to come out and say that this is my last ride and for me now to be headed back to the Super Bowl, for the possibility of me possibly winning a second ring, how else do you cap off a career?" said Lewis, who had 14 tackles to give him 44 in three playoff games after missing 10 weeks with a torn left triceps.
As in the previous two playoff wins against Indianapolis and Denver, the Ravens were brilliant offensively in spots. This might be 17-year veteran Lewis' team, but it's also Flacco's — and the quarterback's six road wins are the most in playoff history.
He has eight touchdown passes and no interceptions in this postseason.
"We've always believed in Joe," Harbaugh said. "And for Joe to come out and to have this kind of a game and this kind of a stage three weeks in a row ..."
Flacco, whose contract ends after the Super Bowl, is the only quarterback to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons.
Meanwhile, in the game Sunday, Tony Gonzalez's bid to compete in the Super Bowl fell short.
One of the greatest tight ends in NFL history will have to settle for that omission after the Atlanta Falcons wasted another postseason lead.
Matt Ryan passed for 396 yards and three touchdowns, but the Falcons were shut out in the second half of their 28-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game Sunday.
"I'm not going to cry about it," Gonzalez said after the conclusion of his 16th season. "I walk away with the satisfaction I left everything, absolutely everything, every time I was on the field.
"I wish it would have culminated with the Super Bowl, but it didn't."
The 36-year-old Gonzalez still has a 13th Pro Bowl to play in, but after spending the season saying he was 95 percent certain he'll retire, he sounded like he's now at 100 percent.
The Falcons led 17-0 in the first half and 24-21 entering the fourth quarter. Frank Gore's second touchdown run midway through the final quarter gave San Francisco its first lead.
Ryan and the Falcons were left 10 yards short of their chance for a second straight last-minute comeback this postseason. The quarterback led the Falcons from the Atlanta 20 to the 49ers 10. On fourth-and-4 from the 10, Ryan's pass over the middle for Roddy White was deflected by linebacker NaVorro Bowman.
"On fourth down we tried to make something happen and we just couldn't get it done," Ryan said. "We fell a little short. I thought everybody battled real hard, we just didn't make enough plays to get it done."
Gonzalez had eight catches for 72 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown reception with 25 seconds remaining in the first half. The Falcons didn't score again.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.