Since Lamar Jackson took over as starting quarterback two years ago, the Ravens haven’t lost much.
But the Ravens haven’t beaten perhaps the team they need to beat more than any other.
Jackson became the starter in Week 11 of 2018 and has since led the Ravens to a 21-3 record as the starting quarterback. Two of those three losses, though, have come against the Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City Chiefs.
The Ravens have been incredibly successful since just past the halfway mark of the 2018 season. And if they want to get where their sights are set, a massive red and gold object is in the way.
“It’s not something that I’m losing sleep over, but it’s definitely a team that we know we need to beat,” left tackle Ronnie Stanley said Wednesday. “And if we want to be champions, this is one of those teams that you have to get past. You have to play your best ball. I think we all understand that we can’t afford to make mistakes. We have to be at our best, and anything less will come up with the results we’ve had in the past.”
In 2018, the first meetup of Jackson’s Ravens and Mahomes’ Chiefs, the Chiefs pulled a rabbit from a hat and tied the game late after a miraculous fourth-and-nine throw from Mahomes to Tyreek Hill. Later in the drive, the Chiefs scored a touchdown on another fourth down play, and later won the game in overtime 27-24. It was Jackson’s first loss as a starter.
Baltimore reeled off three straight wins to win the division, but lost in the Wild Card Round to the Chargers.
“Yes, I think more…(It’s) not to prove to ourselves that we can - I think we know we can,” Stanley said. “I think it’s more because that’s what we expect out of ourselves, week-in and week-out. No matter who it is, we feel like we have to win that game. We feel like it’s a make-it or break-it game. With that mentality, it’s just going to make us mentally stronger and more capable down the line.”
A year ago, a 23-point second quarter doomed the Ravens, who played from behind after a strong first quarter in Kansas City. Mahomes threw for 374 yards and three touchdowns while Jackson tried to frantically lead a comeback all second half.
Now, the Ravens are out to prove they’re just as good, and even better than, the defending Super Bowl champions.
“I remember losing,” Marlon Humphrey said bluntly of the 2019 matchup. “I remember that. I remember it was a pretty tough-fought game. I remember some big plays. We made some plays; they made some plays. There was some good, but probably a little more bad. That’s mainly what I remember from last year. I’m not really thinking too much about last year, being it’s a new season, but I remember it, kind of. I probably remember the bad a little bit more than the good from last year.”
The Ravens and Chiefs never met in the postseason, a matchup that seemed destined to be, as the Ravens lost for the first time in months to the Titans in the AFC Divisional Round at home. An AFC Championship Game between the two would’ve been played at M&T Bank Stadium.
Now, the Ravens will get their chance at the Chiefs in Baltimore — the stakes will just be far lower than that imagined AFC title game — and there won’t be any fans to witness the game in person.
But whether it's the opponent, the lack of fans or even the day of the game, Ravens-Chiefs is going to have a different feel than the other 15 games on both team’s schedules.
“For me, it’s a different feel because it’s on Monday,” Humphrey said. “It’s Monday Night Football, primetime, the Chiefs, Super Bowl champs. It’s really all the things you want when it comes to playing the best team in the league last year – primetime stage. As far as different than the rest; there are going to be a lot of big games, but every game is pretty big. We’re just mainly trying to take it one game at a time.”