A disappointing performance in a big game tends to stir emotional reactions, so let's state for the record what the Ravens' loss to the Kansas City Chiefs means.
It doesn't mean they're a rotten team headed for a high pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
It means they aren't as good as the Chiefs, the team they have to catch and pass in the AFC to get where they want to go.
There's a big difference.
No doubt, the game made it clear the Ravens are second-best and then some right now compared to the Chiefs, with work to do in order to narrow the gap. We'll get to that to-do list. But at the end of a disappointing night, the Ravens still had a 2-1 record with a series of winnable games coming up.
They're going to keep playing, and the smart money says they'll likely keep winning for the most part. In one set of Super Bowl odds that landed in my inbox Tuesday, hours after their loss, the Ravens were still the second choice to make the game, after the Chiefs.
The one-sided nature of Monday night's defeat surely will encourage some to pooh-pooh such optimism and declare any future wins irrelevant, the season doomed. But honestly, that's silly talk. Until Monday night, the Ravens hadn't lost a regular-season contest in an entire calendar year. So they lose one and the sky falls? Please.
The loss certainly will hover over whatever successes lie ahead, forcing the Ravens to deal with skepticism until they earn another chance to face the Chiefs and try to rewrite the story.
But we're still in the first quarter of the season, with months of football and many twists ahead (COVID-19 willing). Remember 2012? The Denver Broncos embarrassed the Ravens in a regular-season contest in Baltimore in December, but weeks later, the Ravens won a playoff rematch in Denver.
The lesson? Don't be so sure you know what's going to happen.
Sure, a lot of pieces have to fall into place for the 2020 Ravens to engineer such a turnaround against the Chiefs, who have a 3-0 record against Baltimore since 2018. Differences between the teams were on stark display Monday night, none bigger than the fact that the Chiefs brought their "A" game to a big occasion while the Ravens blinked at the bright lights.
The Ravens had a plan for slowing down Patrick Mahomes and his offense, but Mahomes seemingly anticipated their every move, while the Chiefs' defense, supposedly their lesser unit, also seemed a step ahead of Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' offense.
Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce roamed free in the middle of the field, but Ravens tight end Mark Andrews was swarmed, forcing Jackson to look outside his comfort zone to make plays in the passing game. The Chiefs receivers made big plays; the Ravens wideouts were largely invisible.
Baltimore had the legendary rushing attack, but Kansas City's Clyde Edwards-Helaire had eight more carries and almost as many yards as the Ravens' three running backs combined. (For the season, carries by Baltimore backs are down 26.8 percent from a year ago, yet the backs are still gaining an average of 5.9 yards per carry.)
On the other side of the ball, the Ravens' secondary and pass rush both had tough nights. The Chiefs' receivers are a brutal matchup for any secondary, so the back-end struggles were somewhat understandable. The rush was more worrisome; the Ravens have six sacks in three games, ranking them in the lower half of the league.
But while there's plenty to address coming out of Monday night, they're truly significant issues only if they get no better and start costing the Ravens multiple games and/or the season, not just one game. I'm not expecting that. Every team has issues but also positives to offset them, and the Ravens have plenty of the latter. One bad performance doesn't alter that.
The Ravens are mentally disciplined and haven't lost back-to-back games since Week 3 and Week 4 in 2019 – their only two regular-season losses last season. They followed up a defeat in Kansas City with a home loss to the Cleveland Browns, then went on a 12-game winning streak.
Yes, the Ravens have work to do, but if Monday night was a wake-up call, doesn't that mean, by definition, that they're awake?