From a dazzling matchup between Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes to growing worries about pass coverage, here are five things we learned from the Ravens’ 33-28 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Patrick Mahomes gave us a reminder of where Lamar Jackson still needs to go.


Jackson vs. Mahomes II was the NFL’s top on-field story going into Sunday, and for the most part, it lived up to the hype.

Mahomes, the Chiefs’ reigning league Most Valuable Player, has already graduated from a phase of dazzling precocity to one of numbing excellence. If you give him four seconds, he’ll identify the gaps in any defense. If you blitz him, his computer brain will find the instant read to punish you. If you blow coverage downfield, might as well slap six points on the board for Kansas City. It does not matter if the throw requires zip, touch or great distance. He has them all in his bag.

His 374 yards and three touchdowns felt almost routine.

Jackson, on the other hand, did some amazing things Sunday in Kansas City. He made defenders miss on moves that seemed to involve him faking forward and backward in the same second. He twirled away from pressure and kept drives alive by heaving throws against his momentum. As the Ravens quarterback often says with a twinkle in his eye, he has brought playground joy to the NFL. And his virtuoso stuff almost produced a wild comeback on the road.

But the Jackson of Week 3 was not the precise passer we saw during the first two games of this season. Some of that was because of the Chiefs’ tight coverage and persistent pass rush. Some of it was perhaps because of a foot injury that slowed his favorite receiver, tight end Mark Andrews. Those points aside, Jackson simply missed targets he’d hit in previous weeks.

“I had a lot of throws I should have made,” he said, ever his own harshest critic.

What we saw in Sunday’s quarterback duel was a dazzling young artist going against a master. The master won. But several Ravens spoke with great conviction about seeing the Chiefs again come January. Implied in those statements is a belief that their guy will be masterful by the time Jackson-Mahomes III rolls around.

If that’s the case, we’ll be in for a wonderful show.

The Ravens’ pass coverage has officially given us reasons to worry.

The game got away from the Ravens when Kansas City’s newest track star, Mecole Hardman, sprinted straight down the middle of the field without anyone picking him up for an 83-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Nickel cornerback Maurice Canady moved toward the outside receiver, Demarcus Robinson, who was already covered by Anthony Averett. Safety Earl Thomas III peeled off to cover an inside route by Sammy Watkins. No one accounted for the fastest offensive player on the field until it was too late.

Safety Tony Jefferson blamed himself after the game, referring to the secondary’s mistakes as “easy stuff that we can fix.”

But such promises will hold for only so long. The Ravens survived a series of back-end miscommunications in Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals. All week, they promised to tighten up against Mahomes and the most dangerous aerial attack in the NFL. They could not do it.

The Chiefs beat them deep, short and in between, leaving the Ravens with significant questions about their pass coverage going forward.


Going into the game, all three of the Ravens’ inside linebackers graded poorly on coverage, according to the scouting web site Pro Football Focus. Their troubles quickly multiplied against Kansas City’s all-world tight end, Travis Kelce, who made six catches on seven targets for 75 yards in the first half. Kelce made the Ravens look foolish for hoping to check him with their zone defense. He’s simply too fast and too adept at finding gaps.

The Chiefs also nicked the Ravens to death with swing and screen passes as Mahomes repeatedly punished attempts at pressure with quick reads. Chiefs running backs LeSean McCoy and Darrel Williams combined for 73 yards on eight catches, and a perfectly executed third-and-9 screen to Williams officially ended the Ravens’ hopes for a last-ditch drive.

The Ravens knew pressure was their best antidote to Mahomes. They’d hit him 15 times in an overtime loss to the Chiefs last season and hoped to repeat that performance. Outside linebacker Matthew Judon scooted around Chiefs left tackle Cameron Erving (replacing an injured Eric Fisher) for a sack on the game’s first series. But the Ravens failed to bother Mahomes over the last three quarters, and he’s unstoppable when he has four or five seconds to peruse the entire field.

The Ravens reminded us they can still play bully ball when the circumstances demand it.

It felt like 2018 all over again when the Ravens ran eight times on nine plays to start the second half, rumbling 75 yards for a touchdown that put them back within shouting distance.

They consistently gashed Kansas City between the tackles, accumulating 203 rushing yards on 32 carries, with Mark Ingram II and Gus Edwards both averaging more than six yards per attempt.

It’s hard to fault the Ravens’ offensive approach during Weeks 1 and 2, when Jackson dazzled as a passer and an open-field runner. But as the season carries on and the weather worsens in many NFL cities, it will be interesting to see how often they go back to the grinding style that carried them down the stretch last season.

The team’s leading offensive linemen, Marshal Yanda and Ronnie Stanley, have made no secret of their affection for that offensive mode. And the Ravens certainly have the right backs to do it in Ingram and Edwards, the former a wizard at exploiting cracks in the defense and the latter a straight-ahead pile-driver. With linebackers and safeties forced to account for Jackson’s video-game bursts to the outside, the middle is that much tenderer for Ingram and Edwards.

The Ravens doomed themselves with horribly timed penalties.

It’s difficult to keep up with the Chiefs under the best circumstances, but the Ravens made it almost impossible on themselves with a series of penalties to wipe out important plays.

They had harassed Mahomes into a third-down incompletion to keep the Chiefs out of the end zone on their second drive of the game. But a horse-collar call on Judon gave the Chiefs a new set of red-zone downs, and they converted to go up 7-6. It was not a vicious play, but Judon did hook his hand inside Mahomes’ jersey.

Down 14-6 in the second quarter, the Ravens reached the Kansas City 18-yard-line on a thundering 45-yard run by Edwards, only to watch the officials wipe that gain out with a holding call on wide receiver Willie Snead IV. The Ravens went three-and-out from there, and Mahomes answered with that quick strike to Hardman to establish a comfortable working margin.


Finally, with the Ravens trailing 23-13 in the third quarter, cornerback Brandon Carr intercepted Mahomes — a potential game-turning play for a defense that had taken its lumps.

If it weren’t for the pesky yellow flag Jefferson drew for committing pass interference away from the ball. Just like that, Carr’s inspired moment vanished from the box score. The Chiefs, never ones to spurn a gracious gift, scored a few plays later to go up 30-13.

None of the three mistakes resulted from egregious lapses in judgment, but they added up to a hill the Ravens could not surmount. That’s reality against the best teams in the league.

As Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey said: “You can’t give them second chances.”

John Harbaugh should be applauded for his aggressive approach in big games.

Fans will surely second-guess Harbaugh’s series of risky calls on fourth-down and 2-point attempts. And yes, his decision to go for two when the Ravens trailed 30-19 was perplexing.

But in the big picture, his bold approach to such situations is both mathematically sound and indicative of the Ravens’ fearless attitude toward road and playoff games. It’s Harbaugh’s most fun trait as a coach.

The Ravens have ranked top five in fourth-down attempts in four of the past five seasons. They went for it on fourth down four times in Kansas City, and two of their three conversions extended drives that ended with touchdowns. That’s the way to play when you’re trying to keep up with a great offense.

Analytically oriented commentators were also thrilled when Harbaugh went for a 2-point conversion to start the game after a penalty moved the ball to the Chiefs’ 1-yard-line. They’ve long argued for the mathematical intelligence of that particular calculation.

The Ravens did not convert in this case. But Harbaugh is an adaptable tactician, and we should appreciate his openness to analytics (an approach shared by Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta).

“We don’t play scared,” he said after the game, a worthwhile mantra for his 12-year tenure as coach.