For as momentous and anticipated as a game can be three weeks into a season, that’s how large Monday night’s much-ballyhooed showdown was. Led by wunderkinds at quarterback who in their mere fives seasons of experiences seem already to be transcendent talents, the Chiefs and Ravens collided. And from the start, it was all Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. The reigning Super Bowl champions flexed their might with Mahomes captaining an offensive showcase in the opening half that led to a 34-20 victory. As Mahomes tallied five total touchdowns, Lamar Jackson struggled in the Ravens’ first loss and the Chiefs maintained their spot as the league’s best thus far.
1) Blessed with a miracle for an arm, an artful ability to improvise and the generational talent to contort and throw from impossible angles, Patrick Mahomes truly showcased his often unfathomable skillset, scoring six in a ridiculous variety of ways. First he rolled right and ran it in. Then he wound up and tossed an underhanded shovel pass to Anthony Sherman. And then he dropped a beautiful ball into the end zone, throwing open Tyreek Hill for another six. Then a 49-yarder dropped perfectly into the arms of Mecole Hardman. Seemingly there’s no throw he can’t make, nor a receiver he won’t include (eight caught passes Monday). And just when the Ravens worked back into striking distance, Mahomes tossed a TD to a former No. 1 overall pick – offensive tackle Eric Fisher. Mahomes the magnificent was just that over the first 30 minutes, finishing the half with 260 yards and three touchdowns on 19-of-27 passing, generating a 139.6 rating and adding a TD run. And when his Monday night masterpiece was done, he had accounted for five touchdowns and 385 yards passing. This was arguably the best player in the NFL taking us all on a thrill ride and astounding us time and time again.
2) Just as impressive as Mahomes was at the onset, Lamar Jackson was underwhelming, as his throws were awry and his offense was stymied in another high-profile matchup. Only seven of his 15 first-half attempts found a receiver and he had just 35 yards through the air, the Ravens limping into the half without an offensive score and only 97 yards. Rarely helped by his receivers, whose hands consistently failed them, Jackson had 41 yards on the ground in the first 30 minutes – the only promising offensive number for Baltimore in that span. But this was an overwhelmed offense unable to keep up with its Chiefs counterparts. To Jackson’s credit, no fight was left on the field as a second-half salvo made the game close. Still, it was poor showing. For the game, Jackson finished with 97 yards through the air and with the team’s first defeat of the season. Jackson is now 0-3 vs. Mahomes and must quickly shake off an ugly night – and all the scrutiny likely to come with a night in which he looked nothing like the reigning MVP.
3) For as bad as the Ravens were offensively, the Chiefs defense surely played a part in the ugliness. Chris Jones had four tackles and a pair of sacks in the first half to lead a Chiefs contingent that missed the memo about this being a shootout. The Chiefs offense will garner the attention and the marquee and continue to put up mind-spinning numbers. But an improving defense making this a balanced K.C. squad is just frightening for the rest of the NFL. For most of Monday, the Chiefs defense bewildered Jackson, the man who confounded all of the league just a season ago. Perhaps the Ravens’ offensive ineptitude was a fluke, but the Chiefs defense is no longer just a forgettable entity opposite an otherworldly offense.
4) As of late, Darren Waller is deservedly getting his due. George Kittle is unfortunately injured. Mark Andrews made little impact on Monday, tallying more drops than consequential plays. But Travis Kelce keeps on keeping on. Four Chiefs caught touchdowns from Mahomes and Kelce wasn’t one of them. He had a team-high six catches for a team-high 87 yards. It was hardly Kelce’s biggest night, but it was further evidence of how consistently excellent he is. He’s a weapon on multiple levels for Mahomes and has an uncanny ability to get open when his QB needs him. The Chiefs offense has so many offensive weapons it’s just unfair. Kelce might well be the most consistent option for Mahomes, though.
5) Sure, it was only after two games, but nonetheless, the Ravens entered Monday as the No. 1 scoring defense. Mahomes and Co. hung 27 on them in the first half (and Harrison Butker left four points off the board). There shouldn’t be any real need to panic for the Ravens defense, it went head up with the best offense in the world and lost. However, Baltimore has never shied away from its aspirations of winning it all. It’s quite likely for that to happen, a rematch with the Chiefs will lie in wait. And a far better showing from the defense will be needed if a different outcome is to be had.
6) Ninety-three yards can erase the momentum of a long scoring drive quite quickly. Down 13-3, the 2020 season’s first kick return for a score was delivered by Devin Duvernay. It was a huge counter to the preceding Mahomes-to-Sherman score and cut the score to 13-10. On the ensuing drive, the Chiefs were stopped shy of the end zone for the first time. This was the opening. But the Ravens offense was unable to cash in thereafter, failing to swing the game in their favor. This was truly the theme of the night for the Ravens; they simply couldn’t answer the Chiefs.
7) Tucked away in the shadow of all the much-due appreciation for Jackson and Mahomes, two of the NFL’s top kickers also took the field Monday. In one of the few battles that went Baltimore’s way, Justin Tucker (two field goals, two extra points) emerged still holding tight to the claim of the league’s best. He was perfect on the night, while Butker was uncharacteristically off, missing a PAT and his only field goal try. The Ravens came away with plenty to contemplate on Monday, but as usual, the excellence of Tucker isn’t one of them.
8) The mighty Chiefs, reigning Super Bowl champions, are 3-0, while the Ravens have fallen to 2-1. There is plenty of season remaining, of course. But if the Ravens are true in their shot for a championship, they need to be better. No matter how good they are every other week, the Ravens’ best paled in comparison to the Chiefs. And until further notice, the defending champions are still the best team around.
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