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Harbaugh brothers take 49ers, Ravens to Super Bowl


Harbaugh brothers take 49ers, Ravens to Super Bowl

This Super Bowl will be filled with firsts - and one significant last.

The Harbaughs, San Francisco's Jim and Baltimore's John, will be the first pair of brothers to coach against each other in the NFL title game.

Quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers and Joe Flacco of the Ravens each will be playing in his first Super Bowl - where success is the ultimate measure of elite QBs.

It'll be Baltimore's first crack at a championship in a dozen years, San Francisco's first in 18. They are a combined 6-0 in Super Bowls (the 49ers own five of those victories), so one club will lose the big game for the first time.

And middle linebacker Ray Lewis, Baltimore's emotional leader and top tackler, will be playing in the final game of his 17-year career before heading into retirement.

``This is our time,'' Lewis pronounced.

For all of those story lines, none is expected to command as much attention as Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh. The game in New Orleans on Feb. 3 was quickly given all manner of nicknames: The Brother Bowl. The Harbaugh Bowl. The Har-Bowl. The Super-Baugh.

The Harbaughs' sister, Joani Crean, wrote in a text to The Associated Press: ``Overwhelmed with pride for John, Jim and their families! They deserve all that has come their way! Team Harbaugh!''

As John prepared to coach the Ravens in the AFC championship game Sunday night, he watched on the stadium's big video screen as Jim's 49ers wrapped up the NFC championship.

John looked into a nearby TV camera, smiled broadly and said: ``Hey, Jim, congratulations. You did it. You're a great coach. Love you.''

Less than four hours later, the Ravens won, too. Some siblings try to beat each other in backyard games. These guys will do it in the biggest game of all.

Who's a parent to cheer for?

During the 2011 regular season, the Harbaughs became the only brothers to coach against each other in any NFL game (the Ravens beat the 49ers 16-6 on Thanksgiving Day that year).

The NFC West champion 49ers (13-4-1) opened as 5-point favorites, seeking a record-tying sixth Super Bowl title to add to those won by Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young.

Lewis was the MVP when the AFC North champion Ravens (13-6) beat the New York Giants in 2001.

With Kaepernick's terrific passing - he was 16 of 21 for 233 yards and a touchdown in only his ninth career NFL start - and two TD runs by Frank Gore, San Francisco erased a 17-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 Sunday.

Baltimore then fashioned a comeback of its own, scoring the last 21 points to defeat the New England Patriots 28-13, thanks in large part to Flacco's three second-half touchdown tosses, two to Anquan Boldin. Lewis and the rest of Baltimore's defense limited the high-scoring Patriots to one touchdown.

In the often risk-averse NFL, each Harbaugh made a critical change late in the regular season in a bid to boost his team's postseason chances. Clearly, both moves worked.

After 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, the starter in last season's overtime NFC title game loss to the Giants, got a concussion, Jim switched to Kaepernick for Week 11 - and never switched back. Now San Francisco has its first three-game winning streak of the season, at precisely the right time.

Baltimore, meanwhile, was in the midst of a three-game losing streak when John fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and promoted quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell to replace him.

The 50-year-old John is 15 months older than Jim and generally the less demonstrative of the pair, although John certainly did not lack intensity while making his case with officials a couple of times Sunday.

The ever-excitable Jim - who was treated for an irregular heartbeat in November - was up to his usual sideline antics in Atlanta.

He spun around and sent his headset flying when the original call stood after he threw his red challenge flag on a catch by the Falcons. He hopped and yelled at his defense to get off the field after their key fourth-down stop with less than 1 1/2 minutes left. He made an emphatic-as-can-be timeout signal with 13 seconds remaining.

Expect CBS to fill plenty of time during its Super Bowl broadcast with shots of Jim, that trademark red pen dangling in front of his chest, and John, who usually wears a black Ravens hat. That is sure to be a focal point, right up until they meet for a postgame handshake in two weeks' time.


AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report.


Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/HowardFendrich


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Ravens sign Michael Crabtree to three-year deal

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Ravens sign Michael Crabtree to three-year deal

The Baltimore Ravens have signed wide receiver Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal on Friday according to general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome.

The deal is apparently worth $21 million, according to Adam Schefter.

After being released by the Raiders on Thursday following the signing of Jordy Nelson, Crabtree heads to the Ravens less than 24 hours later.


The 31-year-old is coming off a 2017 season when he recorded 58 receptions for 618 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2016 he posted 89 receptions for 1,003 yards and eight touchdowns.

Since 2015, the Texas Tech product has scored 25 receiving touchdowns, the fifth-most in the NFL. Crabtree and Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown are the only NFL players to post at least eight touchdown catches in each of the past three seasons.


In all, Crabtree has played nine NFL seasons – six of them with San Francisco (2009-14) and three with Oakland (2015-17). The former first-round draft pick (10th overall, Texas Tech) has registered 579 receptions for 6,870 yards (11.9 avg.) and 51 touchdowns in 125 career games (122 starts).

“Michael has played very well against the Ravens, so we know firsthand the attributes he brings to the game,” Newsome said in a team statement. “He is a smart, tough, physical receiver who battles for the ball. We like his temperament and believe he is a good fit for our football team, on and off the field.”

Since he entered the NFL in 2009, Crabtree’s 51 receiving scores rank 10th among active wide receivers, while his receptions (579) are seventh, and his receiving yards (6,870) are 12th.

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Ryan Grant's health issue and why the Ravens couldn't control voiding his contract

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Ryan Grant's health issue and why the Ravens couldn't control voiding his contract

The most obvious move in the NFL this offseason was the Ravens signing a new wide receiver (or three). It was less obvious why the team decided to commit so much money to former Redskins receiver Ryan Grant.

Grant has long been beloved by his coaches and teammates, but the results have never been there on game day. He has some potential to improve if given a larger role in a team's offense, which he likely would have had in Baltimore, but it never made much sense to offer him a 4-year contract worth nearly 30 million, with $14.5 million guaranteed.

Thankfully for fans who were uninspired by the reported agreement, Grant was unable to pass his physical and will not be joining the team.


At a press conference Friday morning, GM Ozzie Newsome called the void a "medical decision" that Newsome had no control over. 

NFL insider Ian Rapoport reported that Grant is recovering from a Grade 2 sprained ankle that would need two months rest.

You have to feel for Grant, who by all accounts has worked his tail off for many years just waiting for his chance. It's never easy missing out on nearly $15 million dollars guaranteed, but Grant should be able to find work with another team.

The timing of this news, coming so soon after former Raider Michael Crabtree became available, seemed fishy to some.

At Friday's press conference, Newsome also said the team would have still pursued Crabtree if they signed Grant. 

It's probably not fair to suggest that an NFL franchise would actually so publicly back out of a deal just because another option came along, as any team with that reputation would struggle to attract future free agents. That said, it could end up working out splendidly for the team.

Besides, if all else is equal, shouldn't a team located in Baltimore be going after a guy named CRABtree?