This past November, the Ravens played in their first ever Thanksgiving game. It was the NFL Network’s prime time game, the one that fans all over the country would have to fight their tryptophan comas to stay up and watch. As it turned out the made-for-TV storyline of brother vs. brother won out over the lure of cozy beds (or at least, they turned the game on before passing out), as the game was the Network’s most-watched program EVER.
John Harbaugh took on his little brother Jim’s San Francisco 49ers in what was dubbed the “HarBowl” or “Harbaugh Bowl” by the national hype machine. When the schedule first came out, this game looked like a cake walk for the Ravens – San Francisco hadn’t won the NFC West since 2002, and they were annually near the bottom of that traditionally poor division. However, Jim – like his brother John before him – took a losing team and immediately made them winners. The 49ers rolled into town with the NFL’s second best record, at 9-1. Quarterback Alex Smith, widely considered a first round “bust,” was playing the best football of his career, managing the game so San Fran’s strong running attack and suffocating defense could do their things.
The game was a slug fest, with Baltimore taking a 6-3 lead into the half, and scoring the game’s only touchdown on a Joe Flacco to Dennis Pitta strike from eight yards out. The Ravens’ defense bruised and battered Smith, tying a franchise record with nine sacks, while the Baltimore crowd backed them every step of the way (the stadium was the loudest I’ve ever personally heard it, though to be fair, I wasn’t at the season opener against Pittsburgh).
With these two locking down the #2 playoff seeds in their respective conferences, it isn’t too far-fetched to think that we could be in for another “HarBowl” here in the pretty near future – one that would have much higher stakes.
(Again, beware the music)