New Orleans -- The first meeting between Jack Harbaugh's sons was billed as the Har-Bowl, but it could have been termed a Salute to Smash-mouth Football.
The Ravens' 16-6 win over the 49ers on Nov. 24, 2011, featured more runs (56) than passes (47) and zero touchdowns in the first 45 minutes. Neither quarterback threw for more than 161 yards in a game that was mostly mistake-free: There was just one turnover.
For those hoping for big fantasy football stats, it was a nightmare.
For Jack Harbaugh, a 43-year coaching veteran, it was the NFL's equivalent of Venice at sunset.
"I thought that was one of the finest played football games that I had ever been a part of," he said. "The players -- that's what it's all about. Those guys, on that particular night, they played this game the way it's supposed to be played: blocking and tackling and running and chasing. A great, great display of football. I believe that's what we're going to see on Sunday night."
Yes, are you ready for some physicality, America?
With all apologies to the departing Ray Lewis, the dominant story line of Super Bowl XLVII has been the historic meeting between Jim and John Harbaugh. They will become the first coaching brothers to meet in the postseason of the four major American sports when the 49ers meet the Ravens in the Superdome on Sunday.
But the influence of two other coaches, Jack Harbaugh and his late former boss, Michigan's Bo Schembechler, helped make such a meeting possible. Both Harbaugh brothers count their dad, Schembechler and Bo's old rival, Ohio State's Woody Hayes, as their coaching heroes.
This week, Jim Harbaugh termed them the "three coaches that I most try to emulate."
He then recalled a remember-your-roots phone conversation with Schembechler when he landed his first head-coaching job at the University of San Diego in 2004.
"Before he said congratulations he said, `Tell me you are going to have a tight end that puts his hand in that ground on every snap,'" Harbaugh said. "`Tell me that you are going to have a fullback that lines directly behind the quarterback, and a halfback in the I-formation.'
"`Yes coach we will have that.'
" `Good, congratulations on getting the job.'"
Jack Harbaugh was an assistant under Schembechler at Michigan from 1973 to '79, in the middle of the Wolverines' fabled "10-Year War" with Ohio State. The series pitting a pair of 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust coaching legends featured an average of 24.1 points during Harbaugh's tenure in Ann Arbor.
No wonder Jack was so fond of that 22-point explosion in the first Har-Bowl.
"I see Bo's fingerprints all over the Raven football team and all over the San Francisco 49er team," Jack Harbaugh said. "And there could not be anyone that you could better emulate."
COMMITTED TO RUN
In an increasingly pass-happy league, both the 49ers and Ravens remain committed to power running. For the first time in six years, both Super Bowl teams will have a 1,000-yard rusher: San Francisco's Frank Gore (1,214) and Baltimore's Ray Rice (1,143). In their seven combined seasons as NFL head coaches, the Harbaughs have had five teams rank among the top 10 in the league in rushing yards per game and they've never had a team finish lower than 14th.
Sound fundamentals? The Ravens and 49ers each had 16 turnovers this season, tied for the second-fewest in the league.
"These are two very physical teams, alike in a lot of ways and the physical aspect of football," Ravens center Matt Birk said. "That element is never going to change and big games, you have to be physical. The two teams here are physical ... I like the fact that just as a fan, it comes down to these two teams and this style of play to decide the world champion."
For ESPN analyst Mike Ditka, a Hall-of-Fame tight end on the Mount Rushmore of NFL tough guys, both teams send the same message he tried to deliver as a coach. For six seasons in Chicago, Ditka coached Jim Harbaugh, who now routinely trots out Jumbo formations with seven offensive linemen.
"Look at their running games, that's pretty old school," Ditka said. "They'll get right down your nose. And, Jim, he's going to impose his will on you, whether they put a tackle in the backfield or whatever they have to do."
The Ravens and 49ers ranked 15th and 23rd, respectively, in passing yards per game, but it's not as if their coaches are stuck in the '70s. Jim Harbaugh is the third coach in NFL history to win two straight division titles after inheriting a losing team. John Harbaugh is the third in league history to guide his team to the postseason berth in each of his first five seasons.
They haven't built such resumes by dismissing the forward pass or offensive innovation. Big-armed Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco had 12 completions of 40-plus yards, tied for the third-most in the league. Meanwhile, San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick is perhaps the poster boy of the new-wave read-option sweeping the NFL.
At their core, though, they would rather bully than bamboozle. Or, in the words of Schembechler, they would prefer to "grind some meat and rattle some molars."
It's an expression that was borrowed by Jack Harbaugh, who passed it along to his sons.
"That's straight ... Bo Schembechler, Michigan, Midwest, Big Ten, gray-skies football," John Harbaugh said. "That goes back to the roots. When Michigan would be ahead, Bo would get on the headphones ... and say, `It's time to grind some meat.'
"That means it's time to run the ball, four-minute offense. They'd run an off-tackle play. Rattle the molars, that's coming off the ball. That's trench warfare for football up front. That's football."