Super Bowl

Super Bowl 2013: What the Harbaughs Have Learned from Their Last Matchup

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 24:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers  (L) hugs his brother head coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens (R) after the Ravens defeated the 49ers 16-6 at M&T Bank Stadium on November 24, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Reece BrasslerContributor IIIJanuary 29, 2013

The last time Jim and John Harbaugh faced off, a hard-nosed, tooth-and-nail battle ensued, resulting in a memorable victory for the more tenured brother, John, and the Ravens.

Jim was riding high as a rookie head coach, coasting through the NFC West with a 9-1 record, despite entering the season with question-mark Alex Smith as his quarterback.

John was trying to prepare his Ravens for their biggest test of the season in order to take control of their playoff destiny.

Both pieced together the best possible game plan despite the pitfalls that come with playing the NFL's Thursday Night game, gleaning virtually the same idea:  efficient, mistake-free play.

While these simple means of execution are keys to victory in every game, it was obvious neither team wanted to make the big mistake, turning to short passes and predictable runs more often than not.

The difference in the outcome?  Nine sacks by a motivated Ravens defense.

While the 49ers have surely learned from last season's miscues, they will likely face an even more highly motivated Ravens defense in the Super Bowl, as the sea of purple rides the wave of Ray Lewis' retirement.

How will Jim Harbaugh respond?  With Colin Kaepernick.

While Smith is technically a mobile QB, Kaepernick is as mobile as they come, adding a seemingly-indefensible "Pistol" element to the 49ers' already-potent offense.

With this, the 49ers should be able to keep the vicious Ravens pass rush at bay, but that's no guarantee of victory.  They will have to find a way to pressure Joe Flacco while maintaining gap responsibility so as not to fall victim to long Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce runs.

Although both teams dominated defensively last meeting, a better offensive showing from both sides seems likely this time around.

As mentioned, John and the Ravens will face a newly-designed Pistol offense run by Kaepernick, which could give the Ravens' eager pass rush fits.  Similarly, Jim and San Francisco will have their hands full with Flacco, Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin under new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell's tutelage.

While the rematch features most of the same players and coaches, the game plan for each side will be exceedingly different.

Thus, if there was a single lesson learned by this genuine example of coaching brethren in their last meeting, it's that a whole lot has changed.

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