As Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson jogged off the field late Monday night, after the NFL’s so-called game of the year had turned into a running joke, Patrick Mahomes lingered in one corner of M&T Bank Stadium, waiting to explain to a national TV audience what had gone right. Again.
Kansas City can do what it did in prime time — Chiefs 34, Ravens 20 — to a lot of teams. They are the defending Super Bowl champions because they have the game’s most prodigious right arm and a talented defense and an innovative coaching staff. But wasn’t this supposed to be the Ravens' night?
The Ravens (2-1) have their own Most Valuable Player, their own playmaking defense, their own well-regarded coaching staff. And still, for the third straight year, they could not find an answer. This time, they looked even more lost. Mahomes threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns on 31-for-42 passing, leading a Kansas City offense (517 yards) that nearly doubled the Ravens' output (228).
Jackson, who’d joked in the offseason that he “hated” playing Mahomes, looked like he was playing another sport altogether. The NFL’s second-most accurate passer entering Week 3, Jackson went 15-for-28 against a defense that wasn’t supposed to look like the Ravens'. His 97 passing yards were his fewest ever as a starter, and only barely outpaced his rushing output (83 yards).
When a reporter started to ask about the Chiefs (3-0) in a postgame news conference, Jackson interrupted with a joke: “Our kryptonite?” More than anyone, he knew the balance of power in the AFC. It can’t be a rivalry if only one team wins.
“We always start cranking up at the wrong time," said Jackson, who’s 0-3 against Kansas City and 21-1 against everyone else in the regular season. "We always go opposite. We’ve got to come in and finish how we start. We’ve got to turn up and play better.”
The blowout ended the Ravens' NFL-best 14-game regular-season winning streak and 12-game prime-time home winning streak. It also raised questions about Jackson, who’s routinely struggled in the scenarios he revisited Monday night. With a 10-point lead in any game, Jackson’s 18-0. With a 10-point deficit, he’s now 0-5. In his four losses since 2019, including the Tennessee Titans' playoff upset this January, he’s entered halftime with deficits big and small and not found a way back.
Jackson only headlined the night’s disappearing acts. There were overthrows and drops and bad routes. Tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown combined for five catches on 14 targets for just 35 yards. The Ravens averaged 7.5 yards per carry but finished with just 21 attempts; Jackson dropped back 32 times and was sacked four times, tormented by a blitz-happy Chiefs pass rush.
On defense, the Ravens tried everything — blitzes, simulated pressures, seven-man coverage schemes, even lightly used backups. Nothing worked. Kansas City averaged over 7 yards per play and punted just once all game. Even with an offensive line that had struggled to win in pass protection, even with starting guard Andrew Wylie (illness) a last-minute scratch, Mahomes had pockets so clean he could’ve cracked his knuckles before every throw. He wasn’t sacked once.
“We got beat just about every way you could get beat, and we understand that,” said coach John Harbaugh, whose Ravens allowed 500-plus yards against Kansas City for the second straight year. “We have a long way to go to get better, and this will be a beginning for us.”
Kansas City controlled the “Monday Night Football” showdown for much of the evening, taking a 10-point lead in the second quarter and a 17-point lead in the third and reasserting control after its lead shrank to seven in the final period.
The Ravens tried to make it interesting for the dozens of family members on hand — at least those who stuck around after halftime. A couple of third-quarter Chiefs mistakes helped. After Kansas City fumbled on the opening drive of the second half, just as it was about to put the Ravens away for good, a short-lived comeback began. The Ravens got a field goal, but they needed 6:43 to cover 60 yards.
When the Chiefs were stuffed near midfield on fourth-and-1 on the ensuing drive, there was another glimmer of hope. A 49-yard drive, capped by a 5-yard touchdown catch by Ravens tight end Nick Boyle, cut the deficit, improbably, to 27-20 early in the fourth quarter. A game that shouldn’t have been close was within reach.
Not for long. The Chiefs didn’t just restore their 14-point margin; they also made the drive as painful as possible: 13 plays, 75 yards, almost seven minutes worked off the clock. Their final insult was a 2-yard touchdown pass to left tackle and surprisingly eligible receiver Eric Fisher midway through the fourth quarter. He finished the night with as many touchdowns as the Ravens offense.
“It’s a team game,” Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell said. “It takes everybody. Their 53 played better than our 53.”
The Ravens entered the game having allowed 21 or fewer points in 13 straight games, the NFL’s longest active streak. The Chiefs blew past that before the first half was even over, like it was a speed bump.
Kansas City’s offense had struggled at times in wins over the Houston Texans and Los Angeles Chargers. Maybe the Chiefs were pulling punches; come Monday night, the Ravens played like they didn’t know what was hitting them on drive after drive.
Kansas City was 10-for-13 on third-down conversions; the Ravens were 3-for-9. Five Chiefs had over 60 yards: tight end Travis Kelce (six catches for 87 yards), wide receiver Mecole Hardman (four catches for 81 yards), wide receiver Tyreek Hill (five catches for 77 yards), running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (five catches for 70 yards) and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (seven catches for 62 yards).
With Mahomes in control from the game’s first snap, every scoring drive started to feel inevitable. First he broke from the pocket and scrambled in, untouched, from 3 yards out. Then he underhanded a pass to fullback Anthony Sherman, as if he were tossing him a bottle of water, and Sherman scored easily from 5 yards. Then he feathered a 20-yard pass to Hill in the back of the end zone, just out of reach of All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters. Then he delivered a 49-yard dagger to Hardman, who seemed to float by the Ravens' secondary.
The Ravens trailed 27-10 at that point, their one touchdown coming on a 93-yard kickoff return by rookie wide receiver Devin Duvernay. Not even a prevent defense could get their offense going. On the Ravens' first two-minute drill of the half, Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones strip-sacked Jackson. Kansas City was unlucky to come away with no points after a missed field-goal attempt by kicker Harrison Butker.
When the Ravens got the ball back with five seconds remaining and 68 yards to go, the Chiefs dared them to throw short, so Jackson did. He missed badly on a gimme look to Duvernay. Andrews couldn’t bring in the next, either, as time expired.
The Chiefs looked like they’d come prepared for the game of the year. The Ravens looked like they needed a break. Or a night against anyone but the Chiefs.
“Obviously, we haven’t beaten them, so they’ve outplayed us in all three games,” Harbaugh said. “We didn’t play well today. They beat us. They out-executed us. They out-game-planned us. They just beat us. So 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. So you win or you learn, and we have a lot to learn from this game right here.”