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Jim, John Harbaugh ready for rematch at Super Bowl

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Jim, John Harbaugh ready for rematch at Super Bowl

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Jim and John Harbaugh have exchanged a handful of text messages, and plan to leave it at that. No phone conversations necessary while the season's still going. No time for pleasantries, even for the friendly siblings.

There is work to be done to prepare for the Super Bowl, prepare for each other, prepare for a history-making day already being widely hyped as ``Harbowl'' or ``Superbaugh'' depending which nickname you prefer.

``It doesn't matter who the coach is, what relationship you have with the person on the other side,'' 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said so matter-of-factly Monday afternoon.

Their parents sure aren't picking sides for the Feb. 3 matchup in New Orleans.

These days, the Harbaughs' longtime coaching father, Jack, stays away from game-planning chatter or strategy sessions with his Super Bowl-bound coaching sons. Baltimore's John Harbaugh and little brother Jim have been doing this long enough now to no longer need dad's input.

Yet, they still regularly seek it. And, their father does offer one basic mantra: ``Get ahead, stay ahead.''

``Probably the greatest advice that I've ever been given and the only advice that I've ever found to be true in all of coaching, I think we mentioned it to both John and Jim ... the coaching advice is, `Get ahead, stay ahead,''' Jack Harbaugh said.

``If I'm called upon, I'll repeat that same message.''

His boys still call home regularly to check in with the man who turned both on to the coaching profession years ago, and the mother who has handled everything behind the scenes for decades in a highly competitive, sports-crazed family - with all the routine sports cliches to show for it.

The Harbaugh brothers will become the first siblings to square off from opposite sidelines when their teams play for the NFL championship at the Superdome.

Not that they're too keen on playing up the storyline that has no chance of going away as hard as they try.

``Well, I think it's a blessing and a curse,'' Jim Harbaugh said Monday. ``A blessing because that is my brother's team. And, also, personally I played for the Ravens. Great respect for their organization. ... The curse part would be the talk of two brothers playing in the Super Bowl and what that takes away from the players that are in the game. Every moment that you're talking about myself or John, that's less time that the players are going to be talked about.''

Both men love history, just not the kind with them making it.

``I like reading a lot of history ... I guess it's pretty neat,'' John Harbaugh offered Monday. ``But is it really going to be written about? It's not exactly like Churchill and Roosevelt or anything. It's pretty cool, but that's as far as it goes.''

Nice try, guys.

John watched the end of Jim's game from the field in Foxborough, Mass., as Baltimore warmed up for the AFC championship game. Jim called his sister's family from the team plane before takeoff after a win at Atlanta and asked how his big brother's team was doing against New England.

The improbable Super Bowl features a set of brothers known around the NFL as fierce competitors unafraid to make a bold move during the season. Unafraid to upset anyone who stands in their way.

In fact, each one made a major change midseason to get this far - John fired his offensive coordinator, while Jim boosted his offense with a quarterback switch from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick.

Leading up to Sunday's games, parents Jack and Jackie said they would wait to decide whether to travel to New Orleans if both teams advanced or stick to what has been working so well - watching from the comfort of their couch in Mequon, Wis.

``We enjoy it very much. We get down in our basement, turn on the television and just have a fantastic day watching outstanding football,'' Jack said last week. ``We share our misery with no one but ourselves. Not only the misery, but the ups and downs, the ins and outs of an outstanding professional game.''

And, no, the Harbaughs weren't looking ahead to a potential big trip to the Big Easy.

Jack insists his wife is quick to pull out that old sports cliche: ``It's one game at a time. I think it's very appropriate,'' he said.

Jim figures they won't possibly miss this history-making game.

``I think they'll be there,'' he said with a smile.

The brothers, separated in age by 15 months, have taken different paths to football's biggest stage - years after their intense games of knee football at the family home. They tried to beat each other at cards, or whatever other game it was at the time. Sometimes, they tried to beat each other up. Sister, Joani Crean, often got in on the fun, too.

The 49-year-old Jim never reached a Super Bowl, falling a last-gasp pass short during a 15-year NFL career as a quarterback. The 50-year-old John never played in the NFL.

Still, both will tell you, ``Who's got it better than us? No-body!'' - one catchphrase they got from their dad.

``We can't put into words what it means to see John and Jim achieve this incredible milestone,'' their brother-in-law, Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean, said on Twitter. ``We talked to Jim (before) his team plane left. All he wanted to know was how was John doing? How were they playing? One incredible family who puts the care, well-being and love for each other at the forefront like most families do. Again, we are very proud of them. Going to be exciting to watch it unfold.''

John worked his way up from the bottom of the coaching ranks, while Jim was the star college quarterback at Michigan, a first-round draft pick and eventual Pro Bowler who made coaching his career once he retired.

John already has the one-up, while Jim's team is the early favorite. John's Ravens beat the 49ers 16-6 on Thanksgiving night 2011, in Jim's rookie season as an NFL coach - though both know that means nothing now.

``I just want everybody to know, that was a four-day deal and every story has been told,'' John said. ``We're not that interesting. There's nothing more to learn. The tape across the middle of the room story, OK, you got it? It's OK. It was just like any other family, really. I really hope the focus is not so much on that. We get it, it's really cool and it's exciting and all that.''

Said Jim, ``Completely new business.''

In spite of his efforts to avoid the topic, Jim did take the opportunity to express how proud he is of John.

``He's a great football coach, a real grasp of all phases - offense, defense, special teams. I think he could coordinate at least two of those phases and do it as well as anyone in the league,'' Jim said. ``I've got half the amount of coaching experience he does. Again, it's not about us. I keep coming back to that. I'm really proud of my brother. I love him. That's the blessing part, that this is happening to him.''

And, fittingly for the big brother, John feels the exact same way.

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AP Sports Writer Dave Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this story.

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Ravens' fan-favorite Justin Forsett on the move again; seventh team of his career

Ravens' fan-favorite Justin Forsett on the move again; seventh team of his career

The 2016 NFL season has been an odyssey of sorts for Justin Forsett. 

After a Pro Bowl season in 2014, Forsett saw his numbers decline in 2015.

With the addition of Terrance West and the Ravens selecting Kenneth Dixon in the 2016 NFL Draft, Forsett saw his place with the team dissipate quickly.

After being released, then re-signed, then released again, Forsett latched on with the Lions in early October. But after appearing in just two games, the Lions released Forsett before their Week 13 win over the Saints. But on Monday, Forsett was in a new city, with a new team.

RELATED: GRADING THE RAVENS' OFFENSE IN WEEK 13

Broncos' head coach Gary Kubiak served as the Ravens offensive coordinator in 2014 when Forsett ran for a career-high 1266 yards and 8 touchdowns.

The move comes a day after running back Kapri Bibbs exited their Week 13 game against the Jaguars with an ankle injury. With C.J. Anderson out for the foreseeable future, that leaves rookie Devontae Booker and fullback-tailback Juwan Thompson as the only running backs on the team.

The Broncos will be the seventh team Forsett has played for since joining the NFL in 2008.

 

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Grading the Ravens defense, special teams vs. Dolphins

Grading the Ravens defense, special teams vs. Dolphins

The Ravens put together their most complete game of the season on Sunday with a 38-6 beatdown of the Dolphins, winners of six straight coming in.

The script was a refreshing one for the Ravens offense — four touchdown passes, 24 first-half points, crisp execution — but the defense did what it's done all season, shutting down Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi and making the Dolphins earn every yard.

The only Dolphins points, in fact, came after they began inside the Ravens 10-yard line because of a Dennis Pitta fumble.

We've already handed out report cards to the offense, so now it's time to grade the defense and special teams.

DEFENSIVE LINE: B+

Ajayi averaged 5.1 yards a carry (12-61) but the Ravens' 24-0 halftime lead pretty much eliminated Ajayi as a big factor in the second half.

Although Ajayi slipped some tackles, the Dolphins totaled 1 yard rushing on carries by four other players.

Timmy Jernigan was a force inside again but took a stupid taunting penalty after head-butting a Dolphins player. That type of penalty has been too common in his career, but largely absent this season, which has been Jernigan's best yet.

Brent Urban picked up his second sack of the season.

LINEBACKER: B+

Zach Orr continues to impress. He led all players with 13 tackles.

The Ravens linebackers had just one sack, by rookie Matt Judon, but they were pressuring Ryan Tannehill often. Terrell Suggs and Judon each had two of the Ravens nine quarterback hits. Za'Darius Smith also had a quarterback hit as he returned to action after being benched last week.

The Ravens linebackers did a decent job setting the edge on the run, though Ajayi broke some tackles at the line of scrimmage.

SECONDARY: A-

The secondary might have had its best game of the season, with rangy plays, physical coverage, seven passes defensed and three interceptions.

Lardarius Webb's interception in the end zone was outstanding. He ranged far and made a leaping grab to kill a Dolphins drive. It was easily the best play he's made since converting to safety.

His safety counterpart, Eric Weddle, also had an interception near the end zone to kill another Dolphins drive and returned it 53 yards.

Jerraud Powers tipped the pass that Weddle intercepted and also had an interception of his own.

The Ravens did a great job containing talented Dolphins receivers and showing looks that seemed to confuse Tannehill.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

Another week, another 50-plus bomb from kicker Justin Tucker, who hit from 55  yards to end the half and extend his streak to 35 field goals without a miss. Four of his last five have come from 52 yards or farther.  

Sam Koch had an uneven day punting, shanking one kick for 16 yards. He averaged 31 yards on three punts, but two of them pinned the Dolphins inside their 15-yard line.

Devin Hester, who has said he's finally healthy again, didn't show much. He had one kickoff return for 17 yards and totaled 3 yards on three punt returns.

In a weekly occurrence, the Ravens again had two illegal-block penalties on punt returns  (Shareece Wright, Matt Judon).

MORE: Ravens excited for Monday night matchup against Patriots