This time, the Kansas City Chiefs didn’t need a Patrick Mahomes miracle throw to pull out a victory. Instead, the Chiefs quarterback and reigning NFL Most Valuable Player carved up the Ravens defense for much of the game, and the Ravens simply couldn’t match that offensive execution in dropping a 33-28 decision Sept. 22 for their first loss of the season.
Last year, Mahomes’ 4th-and-9 heave to Tyreek Hill kept alive a game that the Chiefs ultimately won in overtime. This time around, the Chiefs opened up a 30-13 lead as Mahomes threw three touchdown passes, including an 83-yarder to Mecole Hardman.
Jackson struggled early (8-for-19, 75 yards in the first half) before he and the Ravens rallied late, thanks to a couple of desperation catches by Seth Roberts and Willie Snead and then a highlight-reel touchdown run by Jackson.
But in a fitting finish, the Ravens defense could not stop Mahomes on a critical third-down play, allowing the Chiefs (3-0) to remain undefeated.
Here are five other observations about the game, which drops the Ravens to 2-1:
1. John Harbaugh was aggressive from the start, but the execution wasn’t there often enough.
After nearly winning in the cauldron that is Arrowhead Stadium last year, the Ravens started this game with some swagger and energy, forcing an early punt and then driving 84 yards in 14 plays for the game’s first score.
On that drive, Harbaugh passed up an easy field goal and opted to go for it on fourth-and-3 at the Chiefs 9-yard line, and Jackson scampered for 7 yards, setting up Mark Ingram’s 2-yard touchdown run. After a Chiefs penalty on the extra point, the Ravens attempted a two-point conversion from the 1, which failed, but the tone was set: The Ravens were going to be aggressive and try to take it to the Chiefs.
They went for it on fourth down twice on their next possession, but lost the ball when Jackson’s 4th-and-2 pass from the 47 fell incomplete, and they unsuccessfully tried two more two-point conversions, including one at a curious point when the Ravens trailed 30-19. That miss forced the Ravens into another two-point try later when they trailed 33-28, and Jackson was stopped short of the goal line after a scramble.
Harbaugh clearly went to Kansas City with a mentality to start aggressive and stay aggressive, but the execution — on both sides of the ball — just wasn’t quite good enough to succeed.
2. Mark Ingram was an outstanding offseason pickup.
At his introductory news conference this past spring, running back Mark Ingram said the opportunity to play with Lamar Jackson and this Ravens offense appealed to him “one thousand percent,” and it’s easy to see why general manager Eric DeCosta made an aggressive play for the nine-year veteran.
Ingram is an ideal fit for what the Ravens want to accomplish offensively, and against the Chiefs, he finished with 16 carries for 103 yards and a franchise-record-tying three rushing touchdowns. He also made four catches — tied for the team lead — for 32 yards, and willed his way to a first down more than once by driving his 210-pound frame through would-be tacklers.
The Ravens most impressive drive of the game came to begin the second half, when they marched 75 yards in nine plays, eight of them on the ground. Ingram capped the series with a 19-yard touchdown run. Although Jackson’s improved passing ability and offensive weapons such as rookie receiver Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews change the dynamic of the offense, the Ravens are still committed to a physical, downhill running attack.
Pushed somewhat to the sideline in New Orleans by the emergence of Alvin Kamara, Ingram has showed since the day he arrived in Baltimore that he fits the Ravens system perfectly.
3. The Ravens pass rush didn’t do any favors for a short-handed secondary.
Earl Thomas said earlier in the week that he planned to prevent Mahomes from making any big plays, and yet for the second straight week, an opposing receiver was left wide-open deep downfield. Mahomes made the Ravens pay as he fired a missile to Hardman that turned into an 83-yard touchdown catch for a 20-6 lead late in the second quarter.
Last week, Arizona Cardinals receiver and certain Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald didn’t have a Ravens defender within 10 yards on a 54-yard pass play.
Mahomes finished 27-for-37 for 374 yards and three touchdowns. The Ravens got pressure on Mahomes early, but he was sacked just once — on the opening series of the game — and most of the time he had all the time he needed to dissect the Ravens secondary, which was playing without Jimmy Smith (knee) and will be without top slot corner Tavon Young (neck) all season.
The pass rush and coverage work in tandem, and while the secondary will speak of the need to clean up miscommunication problems, edge-rushers not named Matthew Judon — Pernell McPhee, Tim Williams, Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson — have to be more disruptive than they were in this game. Those four had a combined total of one quarterback hit.
4. Penalties extended Chiefs possessions, and that’s a recipe for disaster.
It’s hard enough to beat Mahomes and the Chiefs without giving them extra possessions, but that’s essentially what the Ravens did twice.
After Mahomes fired incomplete on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line, it appeared the Ravens had held the Chiefs to a field goal. But Judon dragged Mahomes down with a horse-collar tackle that gave the Chiefs a fresh set of downs at the 2-yard line, and LeSean McCoy capitalized with a 1-yard touchdown run three plays later for a 7-6 lead they never relinquished.
Later, Brandon Carr intercepted a pass at the Ravens 11-yard line, but that was wiped out by a pass interference call on Tony Jefferson. Two plays later, McCoy caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes for a 30-13 lead.
Penalties hurt the Ravens all day, and it seemed the Ravens had a legitimate argument on a couple of them. A questionable holding call by Willie Snead wiped out a 45-yard run by Gus Edwards, and receiver Miles Boykin was called for pass interference on a play that appeared to be a lateral to Chris Moore.
The Ravens finished with seven penalties for 60 yards, and the most costly were the ones that put the ball back in Mahomes’ hand.
5. The next two weeks will start to define the season.
Winning at Arrowhead was always going to be a challenge, and give the Ravens credit for competing to the end after falling behind 30-13 and looking disjointed in the middle two quarters.
The next two games are going to be a pivotal stretch for the Ravens, as they host the Cleveland Browns in Week 4 and then visit Heinz Field in Week 5. After that, the AFC North race might to start to gain some clarity.
The Ravens won’t need any further motivation to bounce back from this loss.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox