ATLANTA (AP) – This year’s Super Bowl will lift sibling rivalry to stratospheric levels as John Harbaugh coaches the Baltimore Ravens against a San Francisco 49ers team led by his younger brother Jim. San Francisco pulled off the biggest-ever comeback in an NFC championship game, coming from 17-0 behind to beat the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 on Sunday, with Frank Gore running for a pair of second-half touchdowns.
The Baltimore Ravens also had to come from behind at halftime as they beat the New England Patriots 28-13. Baltimore is back in the Super Bowl for the first time since 2001.
While there are plenty of interesting Super Bowl plot lines involving the players – from retiring Ravens great Ray Lewis to the sudden emergence of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick – the
sibling angle will make this coaching matchup the most scrutinized in the nearly half-century of Super Sundays.
“I don’t know if we had a dream this big,” John Harbaugh said. “We had a few dreams, we had a few fights, we had a few arguments – just like all brothers.”
The 49ers will be trying to join Pittsburgh as the only team with six Super Bowl championships and trying to start a new era to build on the powerful 1980s and 1990s teams led by quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young.
Sunday’s victory came a year after San Francisco narrowly lost an overtime thriller to the New York Giants in the NFC decider.
The 49ers comeback set a new NFC mark. The previous biggest fight back was Atlanta’s rally from 13 points down to beat Minnesota in 1999.
In the AFC, the record is 18 points, when Indianapolis rallied past New England in 2007.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw three touchdown passes in the first half Sunday. Passes of 20 and 46 yards to Julio Jones gave Atlanta the early buffer.
San Francisco responded, with Kaepernick throwing a 4-yard scoring pass to tight end Vernon Davis and LaMichael James breaking off a 15-yard touchdown run as the 49ers charged back.
Ryan made a 10-yard toss to Tony Gonzalez with 25 seconds remaining in the half, giving the Falcons a 24-14 lead at halftime.
The high-scoring pace of the first half continued as the 49ers began their run of points. Kaepernick had passes of 21 and 17 yards to Randy Moss in the drive. The 17-yarder moved the 49ers to the Falcons 5, setting up Gore’s 5-yard scoring run which capped an 82-yard drive.
Gore then had a 9-yard run midway through the fourth quarter which completed the comeback. The second run came at the end of a short 38-yard drive set up by Ted Ginn Jr.’s 20-yard punt return.
“I take my hat off to Atlanta. They played hard. They’ve got a great team,” Gore said. “But we fought, man. We fought and we deserved it.”
The top-seeded Falcons tried to pull out another season-saving drive at the end but Ryan’s fourth-down pass for Roddy White with 1:13 remaining was knocked down by San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman.
Atlanta’s defeat looked to have ended the career of Hall of Famer-to-be Tony Gonzalez, but Baltimore’s linebacker Ray Lewis will take to the field one last time in Super Bowl 47, in New Orleans on Feb. 3.