NEW ORLEANS (CBSNewYork/AP) — It sounded as if John Harbaugh was happy his Ravens nearly blew a three-touchdown lead in the Super Bowl.
The fact that Baltimore had to hold on the stressful way, with a defensive stand near its own goal line inside the final two minutes of a 34-31 victory, meant that the triumphant coach’s younger brother had done pretty well, too, in the biggest game of either of their lives.
“I just knew with Jim Harbaugh being on the other sideline and all of those years we have been together that game was going to be a dog fight right to the end,” John Harbaugh said. “Those guys were coming back. There’s no greater competitor and no greater coach in the National Football League or in the world, as far as I’m concerned, than Jim Harbaugh. The way that team played proves it. … That is who he is and that is who they are.
“I could not be more proud of him.”
With their parents watching from a private suite in the Superdome, the Harbaugh brothers put on a championship game to remember.
First, it was the Ravens who raced to a 28-6 lead after Jacoby Jones returned the second-half kickoff a Super Bowl-record 108 yards for a score.
Then, came a power outage, which delayed the game for 34 minutes. With the players sitting on their benches or stretching near the sideline as they waited for play to resume, Jim Harbaugh went to work.
His 49ers went on a surge of their own, and younger brother Jim had John on the ropes. The 49ers closed to 31-29 in the fourth quarter missing a 2-point conversion that would have tied it. The Niners were down only 34-29 when they had a first-and-goal on the 7 in the final minutes, but couldn’t quite pull off what would have been the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, and the Ravens took a late safety in their effort to wind down the final seconds.
The short postgame embrace between the Harbaugh brothers, in which Jim briefly touched John’s face, “was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, ever been associated with in my life,” John said.
“Jim is a great competitor,” John Harbaugh added. “I just love him, obviously. I think anybody out there who has a brother can understand. I just believe in him and I have so much respect for him. I admire him. I look up to him in so many ways and I am hurting for him in that sense.”
John Harbaugh said he simply told Jim, younger by 15 months, that he loved him, and that Jim congratulated him.
One thing was clear: The Harbaugh family threw a Super party. Their parents, Jack and Jackie, had delighted the media with their gracious, outgoing manner leading up to a game that had more than its share of excitement.
“It was a heck of a football game,” Jim Harbaugh said, adding that he told his brother he was proud of him.
Jim Harbaugh indicated he was still upset about a couple of decisions by officials — particularly the Niners’ last offensive play, a fourth-down incompletion intended for Michael Crabtree — but asserted, “We want to handle this thing with class and grace.”
After the game, Jack and Jackie stood nearby as John took the interview podium as the winning coach. Neither parent smiled much, clearly dealing with mixed feelings, although they looked proud.
“I knew it was going to be a hard-fought game and very, very competitive,” Jack Harbaugh said. “I’m so proud of John. We talked about where he started at Western Michigan University as a graduate assistant, and then to stand on this stage with the ultimate prize, I’m just so proud of him — and so proud of Jim. … I knew he was coming back. He was going to fight back and he did and made it a great football game, maybe one of the great games in Super Bowl history.”
After watching John Harbaugh address the media, Jack and Jackie Harbaugh made their way across the ground level of the Superdome to the 49ers locker room, where Jack spoke with Jim behind closed doors. The Harbaugh parents had predicted that their thoughts would likely be more with whoever lost the game, because they figured that son would need them most.
“I’m just happy it was such a great game,” Jackie Harbaugh said. “I’m happy for John. I know how much Jim wanted this game, too. That’s the way they are. It was right down to the bitter end, really. It’s all in the family, so that’s nice, and after this day’s over, they’ll go back to work.”
The leadup to this game was all about the Harbaughs — the first time siblings had coached against each other in the championship game. Every day for nearly two weeks, the two were asked about each other’s careers — John was forthcoming, Jim less so.
They had their own news conferences in which they said their family motto was: “Who has it better than us?”
It would hard to find another family in the NFL that does right now, even if one of them just lost the biggest game in which he’d ever coached.
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