In early December, the Ravens traveled to Arrowhead Stadium for a nearly must-win game against the Kansas City Chiefs. It was just the fourth start for then-rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, and the matchup pitted him against then-NFL Most Valuable Player favorite Patrick Mahomes.
Their first meeting had everything — stylistic clashes, lead changes, late-game heroics — except an outcome in regulation. There was a miraculous 48-yard heave to Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill on fourth-and-9 in the fourth quarter. There was a missed field-goal attempt by Kansas City as time expired. There was an injury to Jackson that left the Ravens short-handed on their lone overtime drive. The Chiefs won, 27-24, but the Ravens were unlucky not to return to Baltimore with their fourth straight win.
With Jackson and Mahomes, two of the NFL’s top-rated passers, set to meet again Sunday afternoon in Kansas City, Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said Thursday that a new era of heavyweights could be dawning.
“I think just as an NFL fan, as a fantasy owner, if you will, the NFL’s in good hands with these young quarterbacks,” he said. “And I think you’re going to see two great quarterbacks in this game. We might be seeing the next Brady-Manning matchup, Ali-Frazier, Magic-Bird. You don’t know, but the excitement of it ... all these quarterbacks that are coming out, they can extend plays.”
For a legend to develop, Jackson and Mahomes will need to face off more than twice. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning played each other 17 times over the regular season and postseason. Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson met 18 times in the regular season and three times in the NBA Finals. Even Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier had three heavyweight fights.
But the first installment of Jackson versus Mahomes was promising enough. Even with the Ravens’ run to the AFC North title last season, Martindale said the scars from their loss in Kansas City took a while to fade, if they have at all.
“It stuck with us, yeah,” he said. “I’m not going to hide from that. Sure, it has.”