NEW ORLEANS - John Harbaugh realized a coach's dream when his Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl on Sunday, but it made the traditional post-game handshake between opposing coaches bittersweet as it was with his younger brother.
Moments after the Ravens barely held on for a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, the two brothers met at midfield as confetti rained down upon them while their parents watched from inside the Superdome.
"The meeting with Jim in the middle of the field was probably the most difficult thing I have ever been associated with in my life," said John Harbaugh. "I am proud of him."
The Ravens coach, who shared a bedroom with his brother until going off to college, had seen his team soar to a 28-6 lead on the first play of the second half when Jacoby Jones returned the kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown.
But after a 35-minute delay when half of the overhead lights went out in the Superdome in one of the most bizarre moments in a National Football League title game, Baltimore's Harbaugh had a feeling that the game was far from over.
"The way it was 28-6 and the lights went out with whatever happened, I just knew with Jim Harbaugh being on the other sideline and all of those years we have been together, that the game was going to be a dog fight right to the end," he said.
"Those guys were coming back. There is no greater competitor and no greater coach in the National Football League or in the world, as far as I am concerned, than Jim Harbaugh.
"The way that team played proves it. They showed it today, the way they battled back and fought right to the end. That is who he is and that is who they are. I could not be more proud of him and what he has done."
San Francisco got on a roll when play resumed, scoring 17 consecutive points to make it a fight to the finish.
The 49ers made one last drive at winning the title, moving into a first-and-goal from the seven-yard line in the final minutes. After a two-yard gain, Baltimore stopped them on three successive pass plays in a goal-line stand to clinch the win.
"We are a very resilient team. We have a lot of resolve. That is why we won the game," said the Baltimore coach who has taken the Ravens into the playoffs in each of his first five seasons at the helm.
John Harbaugh said it was fitting that the game was settled by a goal-line stand with his defenders' backs to the wall.
"Speaks to our mental toughness. Speaks to our faith and trust in one another and our belief in one another," he said. "That is what wins and loses games." (Editing by Frank Pingue)