Well, this is how it all came down. The Falcons' luck ran out, Colin Kaepernick's breakout story continues. Joe Flacco made good on his "best in the game" claims, and Tommy Terrific will have to dry his eyes on the tails of his otherwise fabulous life. Boo hoo. Welcome to Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh, Jim vs. John. This is: The HarBowl.
NFC Championship: San Francisco 28, Atlanta 24 SGDO -- same game, different outcome. Falcons fans know the drill by now: Blow a massive early lead, make a bunch of mistakes, mount a last-minute attempt at a comeback, feel sick for the rest of the day. Unfortunately for Atlanta, Matty Ice couldn't quite get the score to bring the Falcons under the wire.
After the 49ers stomped all over the Packers, some people were anticipating another blowout from the young Kaepernick (and his tortoise, HE HAS A PET TORTOISE, you guys!). He was pretty quiet though -- running now and then, not really resorting to the flashy plays that got him attention last week. That was thanks in part to a solid showing by the Atlanta D, but their efforts weren't enough: After coming back from a 17-point deficit, the 49ers played a consistent game to get the win.
There were some intense moments to keep non-Falcons fans on their feet: A Michael Crabtree fumble at the goal line brought the drama for San Fran, but the turnover didn't turn into much for Atlanta. Julio Jones had a solid night, but perhaps not so solid when he laid out an oblivious security guard on the sidelines. The poor guy eventually got up and shook it off, turning what could have been a terrible accident into a "Hey, funny story: Julio Jones plowed into me and somehow neither of my legs are broken. LOL."
Highlights: Undoubtedly, an Emmy-worthy freakout by Jim Harbaugh after a call didn't go his way. If you've seen the amazing NFL Bad Lip Reading video, you know it was incredibly hard not imagining Jim screeching "I WANT CAKE NOW!" every time he had a tantrum. Thank you, Jim Harbaugh. You are a man of the people.
Lowlights: A David Akers field goal conked off the top of an upright, giving us infinite sad Akers faces. Cheer up, buddy. In the wise words of Linkin Park, in the end, it doesn't even matter. Matt Ryan, completing his customary two turnovers a game, went ahead and just dropped a snap. For no reason. His fingers just stopped working.
AFC Championship: Ravens 28, Patriots 13 Who saw this coming? No one. Sure, the Ravens were strong this year, but for some reason Flacco and his aging band of legends never really turned heads, and BAM -- all of a sudden, they're in the Super Bowl. And Tom Brady is Tom Brady, right? This was supposed to be the Patriots' second chance.
But instead, the most exciting things in the first half were the long, lingering camera shots of Ray Lewis weeping all over his scary eye black. Someone singing the anthem? Crying. Ravens sealed a good drive? Crying. Someone adjusting their pads? Geez man, those are the LAST pads in the LAST game Ray Lewis may ever play. Buckets.
Blah blah Patriots field goal, Ray Rice touchdown, the end. Once the Ravens solidified the lead, they never let go. Flacco, who brought the laughs when he declared himself "the best quarterback in the NFL" at the beginning of the season, played calmly, cool under fire, taking few risks but keeping the energy going even when victory was inevitable. Brady, by comparison, looked a little confused, and did wacky things like sticking his cleat up in the air and falling short of an errant ref like a lion trying to evade a gazelle.
Highlights: Pretty much everything the Ravens did. Also: Lewis. Could he even handle it after they won? No. He could not. Lewis will sail to New Orleans on a river of his own tears.
Lowlights: The night was full of blistering hits, but none more terrifying than a helmet-to-helmet clash that left Stevan Ridley out cold and limp as a rag doll. The ball came loose -- is it considered a fumble if you are not conscious at the time? -- and what ensued was perhaps the least effective advertisement for the game of football: Refs picking apart a scrum battling for control of the ball, while Ridley lay unconscious a few feet away. He eventually got up, but left the field for good.
So! The HarBowl is under way. In case you haven't guessed, Jim "I WANT CAKE NOW!" Harbaugh is the younger brother, at 49. John is the elder at 50 and hasn't done anything silly enough to warrant a nickname. Any suggestions?
The 49ers and the Ravens will meet on February 3 for Super Bowl XLVII/47 and everyone will chirp about how fun it is to have two brothers who look exactly alike battling it out on football's biggest stage. Other fun coincidences you may have overlooked: Both the victor teams won on the road, and they both won with a score of 28. There's your trivia for the day. On to New Orleans!