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Ravens, 49ers win to set up Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh Super Bowl

Baltimore Ravens head coach Harbaugh argues that New England Patriots' Brady kicked his player as he slid to the turf on a first half run during the NFL AFC Championship football game in Foxborough Reuters

Jack Harbaugh played one year of professional football, with the AFL’s New York Titans in 1961. He began a long career as a high school and college coach in 1964. But Jack Harbaugh’s lasting impact on the game of football will be the fact that he had two sons in the two years between ending his playing career and beginning his coaching career.

On Super Bowl Sunday, John Harbaugh (born in 1962) will coach his Ravens against Jim Harbaugh (born in 1963) and the 49ers. Jack Harbaugh surely had high hopes for his two sons half a century ago, but even the proudest of fathers probably couldn’t have had such high hopes for what his two sons could accomplish in the family business.

Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh will be the dominant storyline in the two-week run-up to the Super Bowl. It will be the storyline you’re sick of hearing about long before kickoff. But it’s also a storyline we all should appreciate: This really is something special, to see two brothers coaching against each other on the biggest stage in American sports.

When the Ravens met the 49ers on Thanksgiving in 2011, it marked the first time two head-coach brothers faced each other in the NFL. John Harbaugh said at the time, “I think it’s an amazing thing. It’s an historic thing. It’s very special.”

To meet in the Super Bowl will be even more special. Perhaps most of all to Jack Harbaugh.

Here are my other thoughts on Sunday’s action:

Colin Kaepernick is the player I’m most excited to see on Super Bowl Sunday. The 25-year-old Kaepernick is in only his second NFL season and will be starting only his 10th NFL game when the 49ers play the Ravens in two weeks. And if he leads the 49ers to a win, he’s going to change the way people think about the quarterback position. Kaepernick is an amazing runner, but he doesn’t have to run to beat you. In last week’s win over the Packers, Kaepernick set an NFL record with 181 rushing yards. So this week, the 49ers would surely make Kaepernick’s running a major part of the game plan, right? Wrong. Kaepernick had just two runs for 21 yards. But the threat of Kaepernick running to the outside helped open up Frank Gore running up the middle. Gore interrupted Kaepernick’s postgame press conference to hug Kaepernick and tell reporters how great his teammate is: “He can do whatever — throw the ball, run the ball,” Gore said. “He’s a different quarterback, man.”

Was Tom Brady trying to kick Ed Reed? With 20 seconds left before halftime, Brady foolishly slid feet-first and then failed to call timeout, running the clock all the way down to four seconds and costing the Patriots a chance to take a shot into the end zone. But he did something else on that play that raised some eyebrows as well: He lifted up his foot with Ravens safety Ed Reed approaching, as if he was trying to kick Reed. Just like with Ndamukong Suh on Thanksgiving, I don’t know if it was an intentional kick. But it sure looked suspicious.

For a first-team All-Pro, Dashon Goldson sure can be a liability in coverage. Goldson is the 49ers safety who got burned on Julio Jones’s first-quarter 46-yard touchdown, and as good as Goldson is at delivering big hits, he struggles staying with fast receivers on deep routes. Look for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who loves to throw deep, to test Goldson in the Super Bowl.

No one knows what constitutes a catch in the NFL anymore. When Atlanta’s Harry Douglas caught a big pass late in the fourth quarter, Jim Harbaugh challenged it and was sure he was going to win, and he went nuts on the sideline when he lost the challenge and the catch was upheld. I thought he was going to win the challenge, too, but I didn’t know for sure because no one ever knows for sure what a catch is in the NFL anymore. It’s simply impossible to accurately predict how a replay review of a close catch is going to be ruled.

Don’t go, Tony. Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez says he plans to retire, but for my own selfish reasons I hope he changes his mind. Gonzalez is one of the most fun players to watch in the NFL, a player who always goes about his business the right way and is still among the game’s best tight ends at age 36. Plus, he’s five months older than me, and I’m not ready to concede that that means he’s at the right age to retire. I hope Gonzalez is in the playoffs with the Falcons again a year from now.

The 49ers need Aldon Smith to get his groove back in the Super Bowl. In the first 13 games of the regular season, Smith had 19.5 sacks. In the last three games of the regular season and two games of the playoffs, Smith has zero sacks. Whatever is wrong with Smith, San Francisco is going to have a tough time winning the Super Bowl without its best pass rusher stepping up.

David Akers is a liability for the 49ers. Akers led the league in missed field goals during the regular season, and he missed his only attempt in Atlanta on Sunday. If the Super Bowl comes down to a last-second 49ers field goal attempt, no one in San Francisco will feel confident as Akers takes the field.

One more game for Ray Lewis. The best defensive player of his generation — maybe the best defensive player in NFL history — will play his last game in two weeks in New Orleans. Lewis already has a Super Bowl MVP to his credit. Now he’ll try to give his career a storybook ending.

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Seahawks tackle Bradley Sowell to miss time with sprained right knee

Bradley Sowell AP

The Seahawks will have to get by for at least the next few weeks without starting left tackle Bradley Sowell.

An MRI on Monday showed a sprained MCL in Sowell’s right knee suffered in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s 6-6 tie with the Arizona Cardinals.

“It’s going to take a few weeks, we’ll see what it takes to get him back,” head coach Pete Carroll said.

George Fant replaced Sowell at left tackle for the remainder the game. Fant, an undrafted free agent from Western Kentucky, has incredibly limited football experience. He played basketball exclusively for the majority of his college career before joining the football team for his final season. He played defensive line and tight end at Western Kentucky in very limited action.

The Seahawks are excited about Fant’s upside. However, this may be earlier than Seattle would have hoped to have to throw him in the starting lineup.

“George jumped in there and we’ve been counting on young George to jump up at one of these times,” Carroll said. “We didn’t know when it was going to be. He did an admirable job for his first time ever and we’ll see how he goes.”

Seattle went into training camp hoping Garry Gilliam would seize their left tackle job. They could move Gilliam back to left tackle and put J’Marcus Webb at right tackle if they feel Fant is not yet ready for a starting role. Putting Webb at left tackle is also an option in the short-term.

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Broncos present Kubiak with game ball after easy win

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 2:  Head coach Gary Kubiak of the Denver Broncos looks on from the sidelines in the final moments of the fourth quarter of an NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 2, 2016 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib came out of the postgame locker room Monday night to talk with ESPN’s army of commentators.

Talib said the Broncos presented head coach Gary Kubiak with a game ball after their 27-9 win over the Texans because “we missed him last week. Our whole vibe last week was off. He’s just deserving. He made us had a great week of practice.”

Kubiak missed the Broncos’ Oct. 13 loss to the Chargers after being hospitalized and ordered by his doctors to take a week off.

The win over the Texans was special for the Broncos because Kubiak is the ex-Texans head coach and because quarterback Brock Osweiler left the Broncos for the Texans in free agency. Talib said the Broncos were ready, “mainly for Brock,” and played the way they believed they would.

“We wanted to get some good hits on him,” Talib said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get that many. We only got one sack.

“We liked our matchups…against their receiving corps. We just played our technique, man, we went out there and put hands on them. With a pass rush like [we have]…we know something is going to happen.”

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Osweiler struggles, Broncos roll to Monday night win

Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) escapes the reach of Denver Broncos defensive end Jared Crick during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 24, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

Quarterback Brock Osweiler left Denver last March to sign with the Texans. In his return Monday night, Osweiler never had much of a chance.

The Broncos’ defense dominated, Osweiler never hit enough passes to truly threaten and the Broncos powered their way to a 27-9 win. The Texans held an early 6-0 lead but only got inside the Broncos’ 25-yard line once all night, and that was in the third quarter.

The Broncos didn’t turn the ball over or give up a sack. They had touchdown drives of 72, 75 and 68 yards, respectively. C.J. Anderson ran for 107 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

The Broncos won the coin toss and chose to defer, putting Osweiler on the field first. Of course they chose to defer.

It was the right move, too, as Osweiler struggled all night. Through three quarters, Osweiler averaged 2.8 yards per pass. He finished 22-of-41 for 131 yards.

Anderson ran for a score and Demaryius Thomas caught a touchdown pass in the first half. The Broncos went up 21-9 late in the third quarter on the first touchdown run of rookie Devontae Booker’s NFL career.

The Broncos move to 5-2 and host the Chargers next week. The Texans are 4-3 and host the Lions next week.

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Broncos take full control

Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson (22) scores a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 24, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) AP

A short touchdown run by rookie Devontae Booker late in the third quarter extended the Broncos’ lead over the Texans to 21-9.

It’s become the kind of defensively dominated game most expected it would be. Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler has struggled in his return to Denver and the Broncos defense has gained confidence as the game has gone on. Through three quarters, Osweiler has averaged 2.8 yards per pass.

The Broncos have had touchdown drives of 72, 75 and 68 yards, respectively. It’s hard to imagine the Texans having enough left in the tank or enough offense to mount a fourth-quarter rally.

C.J. Anderson ran for a score and Demaryius Thomas caught a touchdown pass in the first half.

The touchdown was the first of Booker’s NFL career and the first third-quarter touchdown of the season for the Broncos.

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Report: Texans tackle Derek Newton tore patella tendons in both knees

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 24:  Tackle Derek Newton #72 of the Houston Texans is carted off the field in the first quarter of the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) Getty Images

Houston Texans right tackle Derek Newton has suffered torn patella tendons in both knees, according to Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL Media.

Newton went down without any contact as he was setting to block Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller early in Houston’s Monday night game in Denver. Trainers placed both of Newton’s legs in air casts before he was lifted onto a cart and taken from the stadium.

Chris Clark replaced Newton at right tackle.

A torn patella tendon is a devastating injury on its own. New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz and Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham are a couple of players to experience the injury in recent seasons. However, very few players have had to deal with tearing both tendons at the same time.

Former Chicago Bears receiver Wendell Davis had both knees give out while tracking a pass from Jim Harbaugh at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia in 1993. The injury effectively ended Davis’ career, though he did attempt a comeback with the Indianapolis Colts in 1995. More recently, Cleveland Browns cornerback Gary Baxter suffered the dual injury in a game against the Broncos in 2006. He also tried to return to football but never appeared in another game.

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Anderson touchdown caps long drive, gives Broncos first lead

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The Broncos have taken a 7-6 lead on the Texans early in the second quarter on a 7-yard touchdown run by C.J. Anderson.

The touchdown drive covered 85 yards in 10 plays and was the first productive Broncos’ drive of the night.

After a quick stop, a Trevor Siemian touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas made it 14-6. The Texans appear to be in trouble.

Both teams took their starting running backs out of the game after injury scares, but both are apparently OK. Lamar Miller was back in the game on the drive following the touchdown. Anderson was injured on the last play of the first quarter. He took a few plays off, then returned.

The Texans got two first quarter field goals to take a 6-0 lead.

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Texans tackle Newton carted off

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 01: Derek Newton #75 of the Houston Texans looks on during the game against the Minnesota Vikings on September 1, 2011 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans starting right tackle Derek Newton was carted off the field in the first quarter of Monday night’s Texans-Broncos game.

According to the ESPN broadcast, air casts were placed on both of Newton’s legs and Texans tackle Duane Brown had to assist the team’s training staff in getting Newton on the cart.

The Texans announced that Newton has a knee injury.

Newton missed last week’s game, ending a streak of 56 straight starts. Chris Clark is his likely replacement at right tackle, where he’ll be the primary matchup for All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller of the Broncos.

Trainers spent several minutes with Newton after his legs got tangled with Miller’s on a third-down play. The Texans kicked a field goal on the next play and have a 3-0 lead.

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Arian Foster calls it quits

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Arian Foster #29 of the Miami Dolphins carries the ball during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

Dolphins running back Arian Foster announced his retirement Monday evening.

Foster released a statement via the Twitter account of Uninterrupted, an athlete website owned by NBA star LeBron James.

“There comes a time in every athlete’s career when their ambition and their body are no longer on the same page,” Foster wrote. “I’ve reached that point. It’s hard to write those words because this game has been everything to me.”

Foster, 30, went from undrafted free agent to the Texans’ practice squad to the franchise’s all-time leading rusher and four-time Pro Bowler. He led the NFL with 1,616 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns in 2010, his second season.

He was limited to four games last season by injuries, then signed with the Dolphins after being released by the Texans last March. He’s retiring after battling more injuries this season.

In his statement, Foster thanked the Dolphins and said he was proud to have been a part of the NFL for eight seasons.

“Life has other plans,” he wrote. “I could not be prouder of the things my teammates and I accomplished in this game.”

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Hunter Henry in concussion protocol

SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 13:  Hunter Henry #86 of the San Diego Chargers runs with the ball after his catch during the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium on October 13, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

Chargers rookie tight end Hunter Henry is in the NFL’s concussion protocol and will be monitored this week as the Chargers prepare to play at the Broncos.

Chargers Coach Mike McCoy said Monday that Henry reported concussion-like symptoms after the Chargers won in Atlanta Sunday.

Henry, who’s just 21, has 20 catches on the season, three for touchdowns. He’s become a key player in a dangerous Chargers’ offense, and if he can’t play Sunday it would be a significant loss.

Henry had eight catches for 83 yards and a touchdown when the Chargers beat the Broncos on Oct. 13.

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Denials from coaches don’t mean Joe Thomas, Joe Staley won’t be traded

SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 24:  Joe Staley #74 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the preseason game against the San Diego Chargers at Levi's Stadium on August 24, 2014 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

We have no intent to trade Percy Harvin.”

Remember that one? It came from Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman, not long before the team unloaded the mercurial wideout on a Seattle team that got limited use out of him before dumping him on the Jets for a bowl of soup.

Granted, Spielman never said Harvin wouldn’t be traded. But the message is that, no matter what a team says, trades can and do happen.

As to Browns tackle Joe Thomas and 49ers tackle Joe Staley, Browns coach Hue Jackson and 49ers coach Chip Kelly, respectively, have thrown water on the notion that either are available. Jackson said Thomas, who nearly was traded a year ago (before the Browns were in full-blown rebuilding mode), won’t be traded. Kelly said talk of a Staley trade is “news to him.”

That’s fine. But keep this in mind: Neither guy is the G.M., and neither guy owns the team. If either team gets what they want (the Browns, we’re told, want a second-round pick and the 49ers, we’re told want a late first-round selection) or perhaps something close to it, whatever Jackson or Kelly are saying now will quickly be forgotten.

Just like Minnesota’s lack of intent to trade Percy Harvin. Or like Jets coach Todd Bowles claim from one week ago tonight that he wouldn’t be benching Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Often in NFL circles, truth takes a back seat to strategic objectives. Which makes it foolish to take anything any coach, G.M., or owner says at face value.

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Okung is OK, in Monday night’s starting lineup

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 08:  Running back C.J. Anderson #22 of the Denver Broncos celebrates with offensive tackle Russell Okung #73 after Anderson scores on a 25-yard reception in the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 8, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos left tackle Russell Okung is active and in the starting lineup for Monday night’s game vs. the Texans.

Okung had been listed as questionable due to a concussion. He was a limited participant in practice on Friday and Saturday.

Broncos wide receiver Cody Latimer is out due to a concussion. He also had been listed as questionable. The Broncos had previously listed outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware as out as he continues to recover from a forearm injury.

As expected, the Texans have defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (wrist) and linebacker John Simon (shoulder) active and available. They had been listed as questionable.

The Texans had listed four players — cornerback Kevin Johnson, linebacker Brian Peters, safety Quintin Demps and running back Jonathan Grimes — as out. The team announced that Corey Moore will start in place of Demps.

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Patriots waive Anthony Johnson

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

The Patriots waived defensive lineman Anthony Johnson on Monday.

Johnson had played in four games this season for the Patriots, starting one. He also served a previous short stint on the practice squad, and he could end up back on the team’s practice squad.

Johnson previously spent time with the Dolphins and Redskins. He first signed with the Patriots last May.

The Patriots also released safety Vinnie Sunseri from their practice squad.

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Cardinals have talked to Chandler Jones about a new contract

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23:  Outside linebackers Chandler Jones #55 and Markus Golden #44 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrate after a tackle on the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones has played well this season, but when Arizona traded a second-round pick to acquire Jones this year, it hoped to get more than one good year from Jones. And that can only happen with a new contract.

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said after Sunday night’s game that he has talked to Jones’s agent about a new contract for Jones, who is in the final year of his rookie deal. Keim described the pass rush Jones provides as “something we have not had here in years,” and he hopes to keep that pass rushing presence in Arizona for years to come.

Keim didn’t say a deal is close, but the fact that the team and the player are talking is a sign that something may get worked out before March, when the Cardinals would need to either put the franchise tag on Jones or risk seeing him leave in free agency.

Jones has five sacks so far this season and had a sack and forced fumble in last night’s tie against the Seahawks. The Cardinals are going to need more big plays like that from Jones to get back into playoff contention, both this year and in future years.

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Redskins ST coach Ben Kotwica gave Lions fans more than they bargained for Sunday

BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 24:  Urinals hang on a wall in a newly-inaugurated gender-free toilet at the office building of the city's Senate Administration for Work, Integration and Women (Senatsverwaltung fuer Arbeit, Integration und Frauen) on November 24, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. The administration has converted four of its previously separate men's and women's toilets to gender-free toilets in a sign of respect towards Berlin's trans-gender community, who otherwise often face potentially uncomfortable decisions or confrontations in the use of public toilets.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images) Getty Images

When you gotta go, you gotta go and that presented a problem for Redskins special teams coach Ben Kotwica during Sunday’s game against the Lions.

Kotwica couldn’t really leave the field to answer nature’s call and no one wants a case of uromysitisis poisoning, so he followed the lead of many others over the years and found a spot on the sideline to take care of business. Unlike some of those others, Kotwica neglected to bring along another coach, player or team employee to act as a shield.

As a result, some Lions fans sitting close to the field got an eyeful as Kotwica relieved himself into a Gatorade cup — Is it in you? never seemed to be so fine a slogan –while standing next to a trash can on the sideline. A photo made its way to TMZ Sports along with a report that Kotwica was the second member of the staff to use that spot over the course of the game.

TMZ reached out to the team, which had no comment about something that happens frequently if not always in such plain sight of the paying customers.

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Kaepernick doesn’t think anthem protests affect ratings

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 23:  Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on from the sidelines during their NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Commissioner Roger Goodell and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick likely don’t agree on much. But here’s one thing on which they occupy the same page: They believe the 2016 drop in TV ratings has nothing to do with the ongoing national anthem protests.

“I don’t know much about ratings and how they are affected and all of those things,” Kaepernick said after Sunday’s loss to the Buccaneers, via Andy Furillo of the Sacramento Bee. “But I don’t understand why ratings would go down, fighting for justice for people, to try to stop oppression, especially in a league that is predominantly black.”

Goodell was blunt and concise last week when asked about the potential connection by reporters: “That it’s not a factor. It’s not having any significant impact on our ratings.”

On one hand, it’s strange to think that anyone would deprive themselves of something they enjoy because of the actions of a small handful of all players. On the other hand, how does the league know for sure that it’s not a factor? Many have said it is; they all can’t simply be exaggerating and embellishing the connection in order to push an anti-protest agenda that isn’t affecting ratings.

Absent meaningful and effective research by the league aimed at identifying all reasons for the reduction in TV ratings, there’s no way to rule out the anthem protests. But the league surely has no interest in legitimizing the connection between the ongoing anthem protests and the declining ratings, because the league has no power to stop the protests.

Moreover, acknowledging that an exercise of player rights could impact TV ratings would be an admission that the players have much more power than they ever dreamed they’d possess.

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