Big brother’s Ravens prevail
BALTIMORE (AP) – Big brother got the best of little brother in a unique NFL duel.
The Baltimore Ravens tied a franchise record with nine sacks and beat the San Francisco 49ers 16-6 Thursday night, giving John Harbaugh reason to celebrate after the first NFL game featuring brothers as opposing head coaches.
The Ravens (8-3) chased, hindered and battered Alex Smith for much of the night despite playing without middle linebacker Ray Lewis, the team’s leading tackler and spiritual leader. Lewis was inactive for a second straight game with a foot injury.
Terrell Suggs had three sacks for Baltimore, which moved a half-game ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North.
The nine sacks tied a franchise record, accomplished twice previously.
San Francisco (9-2) had its eight-game winning streak broken under rookie coach Jim Harbaugh.
John, 49, and Jim, 47, grew up dueling each other in all sorts of games. Competing this time on a national stage, John secured an emotional win over his little brother.
During the final minute, John got a Gatorade bath from his players – twice. After the final whistle, the brothers hugged at midfield.
Baltimore broke a 6-6 tie with a 76-yard, 16-play drive that lasted more than 7 1/2 minutes and ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to tight end Dennis Pitta with 14:56 left. Flacco went 4 for 4 for 34 yards and a touchdown on third down during the drive.
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.
Smith completed 15 of 24 passes for 140 yards and an interception. He never could get into a rhythm against an aggressive defense that rarely let him set up in the pocket.
The 49ers began the third quarter with a 13-play drive that lasted 7 1/2 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 Ravens responded with their lone touchdown drive of the game.
Baltimore sacked Smith four times in the first half and picked off a pass in taking a 6-3 lead.
The Ravens took the opening kickoff and moved 55 yards – 38 of them on a pair of Flacco-to-Anquan Boldin completions – before Cundiff kicked a 39-yard field goal.
Late in the first quarter, a 20-yard completion from Smith to tight end Vernon Davis set up a 45-yard field goal by Akers.
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.
Neither team had much luck moving the ball until San Francisco’s Tarell Brown was called for pass interference on a long pass to Torrey Smith. The 50-yard penalty put the ball at the 15, and although the Ravens turned it into a first-and-goal at the 4, they had to settle for a 23-yard field goal with 2:51 left in the half.