The Kansas City Chiefs entered their primetime matchup with the Ravens at 2-0 and arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. Still, many saw the Ravens as potentially the better team in 2020 and the favorites to win.
The defending Super Bowl champions quickly put that notion to rest, taking down Baltimore 34-20 while dominating from start to finish. There's still a lot of football left to be played, and the league's food chain can easily change in the coming months. But on Monday night, one thing was clear: The Chiefs are just better at this point in time.
"They beat us, they out-executed us. They out gameplanned us. They just beat us," head coach John Harbaugh said. "That’s the story tonight. Big picture stuff, all that, I don’t know. They’re better obviously, they’re a better football team at this point in time."
“We have a lot to learn from this game right here," Harbaugh said.
On both sides of the ball, Kansas City consistently found more success. Obviously, the offense has the magical Patrick Mahomes, but that wasn't the only reason Baltimore's offense struggled.
The Ravens worked to prepare for that, as well as the other tricks Andy Reid had up his sleeve. In the end, however, there were just too many different looks and too much deception for the Ravens' unit. Finding a way to contain the Chiefs is easier said than done.
“We were expecting it. I thought what they did was really good. Lot of misdirection, jet screens, ghost motions, Casper motions as we call them," Harbaugh said. "Screen, double screens. Crossing routes off of that, passes off of that, draws off of that.
“It’s just a really well-executed gameplan. Lot of stuff they did, caused us a lot of problems," Harbaugh said.
While it wasn't just Mahomes that caused problems, the talented quarterback was a big part of it. Whenever it looked as if the Ravens were about to make a big stop, Mahomes moved around in the pocket until he was able to find an open receiver past the marker. Whenever Baltimore had the receivers contained, Mahomes reminded everyone he can easily break contain and run for the first down.
No matter what the situation was, the Chiefs found a way to keep moving and put up points, something the best teams can always do. When big plays were needed, Mahomes was there.
“You got to tip your hat off to Patrick Mahomes. He made big-time throws when he needed to and found a way to win the ball game," defensive lineman Calais Campbell said. "Right now they’re playing like the best team in the league.”
A strong performance by Kansas City's offense isn't too shocking considering the talent and innovation they posses, but what the defense did to the Ravens is rather uncommon. On Monday night, the group made Lamar Jackson and company uncomfortable, panicky and well, human.
The pressure was constant and finding open receivers didn't come often. The running game had success at times, but the deficit made it hard to commit to the ground game. Kansas City wanted Jackson to beat them through the air, and he couldn't quite do it.
It was a poor performance that was reminiscent of the team's loss in the playoffs last January, and Baltimore's quarterback noticed that as well.
“Look like the same thing from the Tennessee game to me. To be honest," Jackson said.
The Week 3 loss for the Ravens was a step back and a reminder that there is still more work to be done. Yet while the game may have been hyped as "Super Bowl" like, it wasn't that. It was a regular season matchup that is more of a learning lesson than a season-ender.
The bigger matchup could come this winter, and for the rematch to go differently, Baltimore will have to evaluate just how the Chiefs stifled them and come up with a way to counteract it. They'll need to be ready for numerous looks from the opposing offense and prepared to find ways to dissect a defense that limits its playmakers.
Still, while the game didn't determine a champion, it also didn't change the narrative of who the team to beat in the AFC is. No matter where they go from here, they know that until they take down the group that has had their number in recent seasons, doubt from the outside will still be there.
“They’re the champions for a reason. Like I said, it’s one of those games, it’s embarrassing to be in a little bit, especially when you pride yourself on defense but at the same time we get to learn from this and get to bounce back and get to prove everybody that’s going to doubt us next week. Who we are, what we’re capable of," cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "But until we do it against that team, like you said, it’s going to go unnoticed.”