Victory Against the Odds and Pundits
The Ravens were against the odds. The experts were all but unanimous in picking their opponent to win. And faced with the adversity of injury and a tough matchup, the Ravens went on to win a thrilling Sunday night affair against the Kansas City Chiefs, 36-35.
Talk all week long circled around the Chiefs being the Ravens “kryptonite.” After all, Jackson called them that after the Ravens' third-straight loss to the Chiefs in 2020. Meanwhile, the Chiefs' September record in the Patrick Mahomes era had been perfect.
But for all the stats, tweets, analysis and commentary, a game still had to be played, and the Ravens snapped both Mahomes' and the Chiefs' September streaks.
"The Ravens had no business winning this game," ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky said. "The only reason they [did] is because Lamar Jackson was the best player on the field. The thing that stood out to me was the mental resolve."
So how did the Ravens manage to win? As The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote, they won as a team.
"They stayed together, they didn't flinch and they stuck to their strengths as a team," Zrebiec wrote. "Offensive coordinator Greg Roman did a stellar job calling the game, sticking to the run and protecting the offensive line. Defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale threw a ton of different looks at Mahomes. It was a good game plan on both sides of the ball and the Ravens got a little help too with the two late Chiefs turnovers."
Here's the full reaction to the Sunday night win:
Victory Shows Lamar Jackson's 'Unshakable Value'
Lamar Jackson was extraordinary against the Chiefs. He launched a jump pass to Marquise "Hollywood" Brown for a 42-yard touchdown, before later running in back-to-back touchdowns. It's these types of plays, his one-of-a-kind ability, that Sports Illustrated's Conor Orr says are a "cure-all" for the Ravens.
"The offensive line takes time to gel and compensate for its weaker parts," Orr wrote. "The receiving corps, most of which is healing in an ice bath somewhere, are not deep enough to drift toward another scheme. And so there are moments when Jackson negates it all anyway, running this scheme salad and winning on downs that he has no conceivable business winning, juxtaposed against a few series later when he gets pummeled in the backfield while frantically scanning the field for some sliver of open space."
More specifically, Orr believes the win over the Chiefs solidifies Jackson as the Ravens' franchise quarterback.
"The victory should obviously show Jackson's unshakable value as a franchise quarterback," Orr wrote. "While it may not always look like what the anonymous scouts and opportunistic, bias-baiting members of the media searching for relevance might think it should look like, it's producing victories."
"Jackson needed this game, particularly after putting the Ravens in an early hole with a Tyrann Mathieu pick-six," NBC Sports' Peter King wrote. "Jackson was 0-3 against Mahomes before this one, and he's 1-3 as a playoff quarterback. He's had some big wins against other teams, obviously, but he may need a few more nights like this one to convince Ravens brass beyond a doubt that he deserves to be among the top three or four highest-paid players in NFL history."
Zrebiec echoes Orr's words.
"Derided for not being able to bring his team back when behind, Jackson overcame an 11-point deficit in the final quarter," Zrebiec wrote. "He also shrugged off his early struggles, which included two interceptions and a pick-six. He showed resilience, leadership skills and toughness."
This is yet another achievement for Jackson, and he has a long list of them already marked off. A list The Ringer’s Rodger Sherman has been keeping tabs on.
"In one night, Jackson did a pair of things he wasn't supposed to be able to do—a big comeback win against the team he couldn't beat," Sherman wrote. "There are still, of course, other things he hasn't done yet: He hasn't led the league in most major passing categories, he hasn't won a Super Bowl, he hasn't shut everybody up about him yet. But the list is getting a lot shorter."
Harbaugh's Fourth-Down Decision Impresses Pundits
On 4th & 1, with the game on the line, cameras caught Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh yelling to his signal caller, asking if he wanted to go for it.
According to Harbaugh, this was semantics. He already knew Jackson was going to say yes. Sherman felt this exchange was the best moment of the game.
"Somehow, there was a moment in Ravens-Chiefs that was even cooler than a former MVP flipping into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown," Sherman wrote. "With about a minute to go, Baltimore faced a fourth-and-1. If they picked it up, they would win the game. If they came short, they were giving the ball to Mahomes and the Chiefs, who would need just a few yards to kick a game-winning field goal. Should they go for it? John Harbaugh didn't make the decision by himself. He asked Lamar—and Lamar said go for it."
Sherman wasn't the only one impressed by the moment, either.
According to The Athletic's Ben Baldwin's 4th down decision bot, this decision wasn't just a great "guts" call by a coach, but also the best action according to analytics.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley said the decision was "nearly unprecedented."
"It was a gutsy run by Jackson and a nearly unprecedented call by Harbaugh," Hensley wrote. "Since 2000, this marked only the second time that a team went for it on fourth down in the final two minutes of a game when leading by less than a field goal, according to ESPN Stats & Information research."
It comes as no surprise that Harbaugh was already set on going for it, seeing as the Ravens are tied for the most fourth-down conversions since 2018.
Bounce-*Back* Game for Alejandro Villanueva
In Week 1, right tackle Alejandro Villanueva struggled against Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby. But in Week 2, left tackle Villanueva delivered the block to open a lane for Jackson to gain the first down on 4th & 1, sealing the Ravens win.
Not bad for the former Army Ranger, who believes playing tackle in the NFL is similar to jumping out of airplanes.
Tavon Young Gets Huge Pick in Return
About resolve, none may have battled through more than cornerback Tavon Young; he's missed nearly three seasons of his NFL career due to injury. But through said adversity, Young became the first player to intercept a Mahomes pass in September.
According to Mahomes, it was "one of the worst interceptions I've ever had."
"I should've just thrown it to [Demarcus Robinson] in the flat," Mahomes said. "I saw D-Rob in the flat, then I saw Travis came back to me, the dude grabbed my leg, I thought I could get my other foot down, he kind of spun me, and it was just a dumb interception. Probably one of the worst interceptions I've ever had."