By the time the Chiefs were on their final scoring drive of the game, they were confident enough to throw a pass to their left tackle, Eric Fisher, who had slipped through the Ravens’ defense to the left corner of the end zone.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes lobbed his fourth touchdown pass of the night to his 6-foot-7, 315-pound target and jogged off the field with a confused and beaten Ravens defense that lay in his wake.
The Ravens didn’t stop Mahomes, or the Chiefs’ jaw-dropping offensive play designs, as they were thoroughly out-manned in a 34-20 loss at M&T Bank Stadium. It was the team’s third straight loss to the Chiefs in three years of regular season matchups.
It was supposed to be a showing of perhaps the league’s two best teams with two of its youngest stars at the helm in Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. Instead, the Ravens proved they’ve got a long way to go to compete with the defending Super Bowl champions.
“The Chiefs, they played a great game,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Very well executed first of all, very impressive in every phase. Their offense was sharp, their defense was physical — it was on point. That’s just the way it went down. We got beat in just about every way you could get beat. We understand that, we have a long way to get better. This will be a beginning for us.”
The toss from Mahomes to Fisher was simply the last in a long line of stellar and impressive misdirection plays. From the first play of the game, a 22 yard reverse to Tyreek Hill, the Ravens were on their heels.
The Chiefs’ gameplan included reverse passes, fake double screens, an underhanded middle screen to the fullback and then more fakes off of those fakes. It’s as mind-boggling to describe as it was to see take place over 60 minutes.
They attacked relentlessly from start to finish and never let up, even as the score fluctuated between a commanding Chiefs lead to a more precarious one early in the fourth quarter. Even with the lead at seven points in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs threw the ball all over the field with ease.
Mahomes finished 31-of-42 passing with 385 yards and four touchdowns. He added 26 yards and a score on the ground too, as he wasn’t just the best player on the field Monday, he staked his claim — in front of a national audience — once again as the best player in the sport.
“They don’t give that guy a half a billion dollars for no reason,” defensive lineman Calais Campbell said. “I know who we are and what we’re capable of. He was able to go out there and do some great things against us. I’m really looking forward to earning the right to try to face them again. I’m very confident if we play the game we’re supposed to, we can hang with those guys.”
For all the Ravens’ blitzes they dialed up, they actually appeared to play right into the hands of the Chiefs as Campbell and the rest of the Ravens’ pass-rushers weren’t able to get a hand on Mahomes all night, who let screens and quick passes fly before he was touched.
In all, the Chiefs went 10-of-13 on third down. Mahomes was hit just four times and was never sacked.
“They out-executed us, especially in the big moments that mattered,” Campbell said. “They came up with the big play. This game, it’s a one-play battle over and over again until the game is over. They got more than we did.”
Five Chiefs receivers tallied more than 60 yards: Travis Kelce, Mecole Hardman, Tyreek Hill, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Sammy Watkins — all of whom had at least four catches. In total, eight different receivers caught passes for the Chiefs. And yes, that includes their left tackle.
The game, while just a 14-point deficit at first glance, could’ve been worse. The Ravens only scored 13 offensive points (the other touchdown was a 93-yard kick return by Devin Duvernay) and the Chiefs left four points on the field by uncharacteristic missed kicks from Harrison Butker.
Mahomes almost connected with Hardman for a fourth touchdown pass of the night at the end of the first half, but that would've simply been window dressing on a dominant performance.
“I thought what they did was really good,” Harbaugh said. “Lot of misdirection, jet screens, ghost motions — casper motions as we call them — screens, double screens, crossing routes off of that, passes off of that, draws off of that. It was just a really well executed game plan. It’s a lot of stuff they did, caused us a lot of problems.”
For all the Ravens’ defensive woes, which can be explained away by dealing with the defending Super Bowl champions, the offense was nowhere to be found for large stretches of the game.
Jackson had one of his worst games as a Raven and threw for just 97 yards on 15-of-28 passing. He ran for 83, and was plagued by untimely drops in his receiving corps, but it wasn’t a banner night for the reigning MVP who appeared to be a tad off his mark all night.
The Ravens’ leading receiver was running back J.K. Dobbins, who caught all four of his targets for 38 yards. The running game flourished, but once the Ravens got down after a strong first drive of the game, they opted for more pass plays to mount a comeback. After six run plays on the opening drive, they ran just 15 more the rest of the game.
Jackson said he saw a similar gameplan to the one the Titans implemented in their 28-12 win over the Ravens in the AFC Divisional Round a year ago.
“We’re going to gameplan better, talk to our offensive coordinator, offensive unit, go from there,” Jackson added.
While the loss was disheartening, the Ravens are still 2-1 with the lowly Washington Football Team upcoming. It was merely a setback for one of the league’s most talented teams.
But despite whatever optimism there is to gain from a loss like that, the Ravens fell to 0-3 against the Chiefs when Mahomes and Jackson were the starting quarterbacks. That will surely be the narrative the next time these teams play, whether in the playoffs later this season or in the 2021 regular season.
“They’ve outplayed us in all three games if you want to go back for three years,” Harbaugh said. “But we didn’t play well today, they beat us, they out-executed us, they out-gameplanned us. They just beat us. That’s the story tonight. Big picture stuff, I don’t know, they’re better obviously. They’re a better football team at this point in time. You win or you learn and we have a lot to learn from this game right here.”
Cornerback Jimmy Smith added the film won’t be kind to the entire team, but adjustments will be made as they’ve got a short week before they head to Washington.
The physical challenge the Chiefs presented was one of the most difficult the Ravens will face all year. And now, the Chiefs have the Ravens' number.
“I don’t think we’re discouraged at all,” Smith said. “I think the good thing about playing a team like that that’s just hitting on all cylinders right now is they can show you where we’re weak at. And they did. We get the chance to go back and fix it. I don’t think our team is discouraged by any means.”