The Chiefs’ game plan was simple.
Hand the ball off to Jamaal Charles again, and again, and again.
It worked to perfection for one half. But Baltimore’s ability to stop the bleeding in the second half was a major reason for pulling out a 9-6 win in Kansas City.
“Regardless of what they did the first half, look at the scoreboard,” linebacker
Charles, who entered the game as the NFL’s second-leading rusher, routinely gouged the Ravens’ run defense in the first half.
For the first time since 1998, Baltimore gave up more than 100 rushing yards to a running back in the first half alone. Charles had 125 yards before intermission.
But Baltimore didn’t panic, Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
“We couldn’t stop the run if it was [Charles] or any of them, in the first half at all. That was a disappointment,” Harbaugh said.
"It was a ‘figure this thing out, what’s going on [mindset].’ It wasn’t like we weren’t capable of stopping the run. We just had to figure out what [the problem] was.”
The Ravens determined that they were getting too much penetration up front, something that a defensive line usually covets. That occasionally led to stops for negative yardage, but it also left Baltimore susceptible to the quick-footed Charles, who was able to zoom past hard-charging linebackers.
Harbaugh described it as creating different levels, which left gaps between the defensive linemen and linebackers that Charles exploited.
So in the second half, Baltimore moved where it lined up the nose tackle and tightened up the defensive line. The Ravens moved the linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage and didn’t drop the secondary as much either since the Chiefs weren’t throwing the ball.
“We were able to create more of a flat wall,” Harbaugh said.
The result was just 15 rushing yards for Charles in the second half. He finished with 30 carries for 140 yards, but looked primed to have a much bigger day.
“Once you make that adjustment, everything changed,” Lewis said. “As you see, the second half, it was a totally different ballgame.”
The Ravens knew Kansas City didn’t want to go to the air with starting quarterback Matt Cassel. He attempted just six passes the entire first half. The Chiefs still ran the ball even in big third-and-long situations.
Kansas City became one-dimensional, and once the Ravens were able to stop that dimension, the Chiefs offense struggled to move the ball.
“The front seven have a standard about what they’re doing,” safety
Entering the game ranked 23rd in average yards allowed per game, the unit surrendered 338 yards to Chiefs, well below their average of 419.5.
The Ravens forced four turnovers and held Kansas City out of the end zone three times after it entered the red zone – including once on a goal-line fumble.
“We knew they had talent everywhere,” Lewis said. “They don’t score, they don’t win. That was our whole mentality.
“I take my hat off to my defense to come in and get as many turnovers as we did and just make the stops every time, and make the stops when we needed to make the stops.”