The countdown to the HarBowl is officially on, as the 49ers and Ravens prepare for their Thanksgiving showdown in Baltimore. Led by Jim Harbaugh and John Harbaugh, respectively, Thursday night’s matchup is overflowing with intrigue.
The contest will mark the first time in NFL history that two brother head coaches will ever face each other on the field. John Harbaugh, who is two years older than Jim, has led the Ravens to a 7-3 record and a first place tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North.
Though John Harbaugh said he was focused on the week’s game plan, he acknowledged it will be “amazing” and “historic” to face his brother at the game’s top level. But John Harbaugh still sounded like a coach as he spoke with reporters during Monday’s conference call.
“They have a lot of really good players and I think they’re well-coached,” John Harbaugh said. “I think they stay to their philosophy and it’s good, solid football. It’s field position football, they don’t turn the ball over, they play good defense, they play special teams, they run it and they complete passes.”
Ravens running back Ray Rice said the 49ers remind him a bit of Baltimore, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Per usual, the Ravens boast one of the league’s top defenses this year, one that’s spearheaded by perennial Pro Bowler Ray Lewis. The 16-year pro leads a unit that gives up an average of 304.5 yards per game, the fourth-best total in the NFL.
But the 49ers also have a world-class linebacker roaming the field in a No. 52 jersey, four-time Pro Bowler Patrick Willis.
“He’s the closest thing to (Lewis),” Rice said of Willis. “He plays the game the right way, he’s a tenacious player. A lot of respect for that guy. Definitely looking forward to playing against a guy like that.”
Rice, who gained 104 yards and rushed for two touchdowns in Sunday’s 31-24 win over Cincinnati, will try to become the first individual rusher in 33 games to eclipse the 100-yard mark against the 49ers. Following Sunday’s 23-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers still tote the league’s top rush defense, giving up an average of 73.9 yards per game and haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown all year.
“They take a lot of pride in – not only stopping the run – but not allowing a rusher to score a touchdown,” Rice said. “It’s going to be great challenge. Every yard matters in this game … it’s going to be a slug fest.”
Storylines aside, John Harbaugh said there should be some stellar football on display Thanksgiving night.
“It’s two teams with quite a lot at stake,” John Harbaugh said. “It’s two teams that play a very similar style of football. It’s going to be a great night. It’s going to be a great night for football. If you’re a football fan, I wouldn’t think you’d want to miss this game.”
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