BALTIMORE – John Harbaugh could have gloated. He could have bragged.
Instead, the Baltimore Ravens coach played the role of gracious big brother after he bested Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers, 16-6, Thursday night in the first NFL game featuring brothers as opposing head coaches.
The Ravens (8-3) tied a franchise record with nine sacks to end San Francisco’s eight-game winning streak.
“To the 49ers and to my brother, I can’t tell you enough how proud I am of him and the job he’s done building that football team,” John said of Jim, a rookie NFL coach. “That’s a football team. The way they’re built, it’s pretty hard to figure out a way to beat them.”
John, 49, and Jim, 47, grew up dueling each other in all sorts of games. This, however, was the first time their sibling rivalry was displayed on a national stage.
During the final minute, John got a Gatorade bath from his players – twice. After the game ended, the brothers hugged at midfield.
“There’s a saying that says, ‘As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another,’ ” Jim said. “And I have to say my brother John is the sharpest iron I’ve ever encountered in my life.”
The Ravens chased, hindered and battered 49ers quarterback Alex Smith for much of the night despite playing without middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who was inactive for a second straight game with a foot injury.
Smith completed 15 of 24 passes for 140 yards and an interception, and San Francisco (9-2) was held without a touchdown for the first time this season. Smith never could get into a rhythm against an aggressive defense that rarely let him set up in the pocket.
“It’s tough to get ready for a defense like that in a short week. They do so many things,” Smith said. “They’re a great front. At home with the crowd noise, they were teeing off.”
Terrell Suggs had three sacks for first-place Baltimore (8-3), which moved a half-game ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North.
“That’s always the game plan, to get after the quarterback, but I think the No. 1 game plan was to win the Harbaugh Bowl,” Suggs said. “Coach tried to downplay it – act like it’s not me against my brother, this is the Ravens vs. the 49ers and let’s get win No. 8 and make sure our destiny is in our own hands – but it was really important to him. We as a team went out there and really wanted to win for him.”
Baltimore broke a 6-6 tie with a 76-yard, 16-play drive that lasted more than 71/2 minutes and ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to tight end Dennis Pitta with 14:56 to play.
“When you have that kind of game plan – your line being so efficient on third downs – you have to come through,” Flacco said.
Billy Cundiff wrapped up the scoring with his third field goal, a 39-yarder with 4:16 remaining.
In a game dominated by both defenses, Flacco finished 15 for 23 for 161 yards and Ray Rice ran for 59 yards on 21 carries.
The 49ers began the third quarter with a 13-play drive that lasted 71/2 minutes and produced a 52-yard field goal by David Akers for a 6-6 tie. The key play was an 18-yard completion from Smith to Michael Crabtree on a third-and-17 from the San Francisco 26.
The 49ers blew a chance to take the lead when Frank Gore was penalized for a chop block on a 75-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Ted Ginn, who got behind Cary Williams deep down the middle.