Preparing to coach the Ravens in the AFC championship game Sunday night, John Harbaugh watched on the stadium's big video screen as Jim Harbaugh's Niners wrapped up their victory in the NFC championship game.
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. Yes, get ready for the Brother Bowl.
It'll be Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh when Big Bro John's Ravens play Little Bro Jim's 49ers in the Super Bowl at New Orleans in two weeks.
As much chatter as there will be about the players involved – from Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and his impending retirement to 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's sudden emergence – the Harbaugh family angle will make this coaching matchup the most scrutinized in the nearly half-century of Super Sundays.
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!''
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).
Now they'll be squaring off with a championship at stake in a Super Bowl filled with firsts – and one truly significant last.
It will be the first one between coaching brothers, of course. First one for Joe Flacco, the oft-doubted Ravens quarterback with the superb touch on deep balls and a QB-record six postseason road wins. First one for Kaepernick, the second-year player with the tattooed arms, the sprinter's speed, and a shoulder that zips throws like the high school baseball pitcher he used to be.
And it will be the last game for 17-year veteran Lewis, Baltimore's emotional leader and this postseason's top tackler with 44 so far.
''This is our time,'' Lewis pronounced.
The 49ers and their veteran leaders such as Frank Gore are expressing the same sentiments.
Lewis appeared to be on the verge of tears before and after helping Baltimore become the only team in 68 tries to overcome a halftime deficit against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in Foxborough, Mass.
The NFC West champion 49ers (13-4-1) open as favorites, seeking a record-tying sixth Super Bowl title but first since 1995. The franchise of Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young is 5-0 in Super Bowls.
The AFC South champion Ravens (13-6) are headed to their second Super Bowl; Lewis was the MVP when Baltimore 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 by 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.
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 New York 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 1:09 remaining. He made an emphatic-as-can-be timeout signal with 13 seconds left to play.
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. Yes, that is sure to be a focal point, until they meet for a postgame handshake.
Vegas bookies make 49ers 4½-point favorites
If the Ravens are to become Super Bowl champions, they'll have to beat the odds again to do it.
Bookmakers in the Las Vegans gambling mecca mostly have the 49ers 4.5-point favorites over the Ravens in the Super Bowl, amid expectations this could be the heaviest bet title game ever.
''It's a monster matchup, brother versus brother,'' William Hill oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro said. ''I believe it will top last year's Super Bowl handle and could go higher.''
Some sports books didn't even wait until the clock ran out in the Ravens win over the New England Patriots to set the line. At the LVH sports book, a line favoring the 49ers by 4.5 points was put up just before the 2-minute warning, and bettors didn't waste any time to get money down on the game.
''We've got money coming in as we speak, it looks like it will be good on both sides,'' said LVH book director Jay Kornegay. ''These teams mirror each other, but the 49ers are a bit more sexy now than the Ravens.''
At William Hill, which operates 75 betting parlors in Nevada, oddsmakers opened the game with the 49ers a 5-point favorite, as did some other books. But it was quickly bet down to 4.5 points, a line that seemed to be holding in the early betting.
''We had what I consider a large bet come in at 5 points and moved down from there,'' said Vaccaro, who said he believes the line will hold between 4 and 4½ points until close to the day of the game.
Baltimore already is the first underdog of more than a touchdown to win both the division and championship playoff rounds. The Ravens were 7.5-point underdogs to the Patriots before beating them 28-13 to win the AFC title game.
''The Ravens are the hot team now but they're not getting a lot of support from the public,'' Kornegay said. ''These are very similar teams, both can run the ball well, play smash mouth football and have two quarterbacks playing very good football.''
Last year's game between the New York Giants and the Patriots drew $93.9 million in wagers in Nevada, just under the record $94.5 million bet in 2006 when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10. Those who follow the betting industry closely say hundreds of millions of dollars – possibly even billions – will be bet on the game by the time the offshore sports books and illegal bookmakers take in their share.
Like the LVH, some books in Las Vegas opened the game at 4½ points, while others put their number up at 5. Most of the major Las Vegas sports books were at 4½ points, with a few listing the 49ers at 4 points Sunday night.
The over/under, where bettors can wager on whether the two teams will combine for more or less points than the posted number, was at 49 points at most books.
Point spreads fluctuate on games, especially the most heavily bet ones, according to how much oddsmakers take on each team. A big bet on one team can sometimes send a line moving a half point one way or another, though most movement normally takes place in the days just before the game.
Nevada oddsmakers also post hundreds of proposition bets on the game, everything from who will win the coin flip to which quarterback will have more passing yards. Those bets aren't expected to be posted fully until later in the week.
Vaccaro said the proximity of the 49ers to Nevada should boost betting on the game.
Casinos have lost only once on the Super Bowl the last 10 years, in 2008 when bettors gambled $92 million and casinos lost $2.57 million as the Giants beat New England, 17-14.