Facing a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes tests every aspect of a defense, and it's the kind of challenge the Ravens love. Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale says the way Mahomes orchestrates his offensive unit is part of his greatness.
The Ravens blitzed more than any team in the NFL last season, and they may blitz Mahomes a lot on Monday night. Or maybe they won't. It's a guessing game until the contest starts, but Mahomes has been tough for the Ravens to contain no matter what defense they call, passing for 377 yards against Baltimore in 2018 and 374 yards against the Ravens last year.
Mahomes is terrific at using his mobility to extend plays, and he's excellent at anticipating blitzes and adjusting the Chiefs' pass protection to account for it.
"He's at that football IQ level of (Tom) Brady and (Peyton) Manning," Martindale said. "The protection part of it, too. It seems like anytime anybody presses them he always has the right protection. It seems like you're running into a wall.
"You have to defense the first play, the second play and sometimes the third play. The way he throws the football, you have to stay on your coverage no matter what."
Martindale joked about the Chiefs signing Mahomes to a lucrative contract extension during the offseason.
"I know he's got $450 million or whatever it is. They could have paid him a $1 billion and I would think he's underpaid," Martindale said.
Ravens Running Game Could Be Crucial Weapon vs. Chiefs
The Ravens always want to run successfully, but against the Chiefs, a strong running game could be even more important, allowing Baltimore to control the clock and keep Mahomes off the field. However, Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman knows that becoming too one-dimensional may not be the most effective way to attack Kansas City's offense.
Running the football effectively is always good with Roman, but if there are opportunities in the passing game Monday night, he wants to make sure the Ravens take advantage.
"We want to run it and throw it," Roman said. "I really think that you can't be a one-trick pony. If people want to stop the run, they can just all-out blitz you and just try to fog you with numbers. So, you have to be able to see how the game is going and react accordingly. We want to get our run game improving every week. I thought we made a good step last week. We need to make another step this week. Keeping Mahomes off the field, obviously, is always a positive. So, all those things can factor into a victory.
Chiefs' Defensive Playmakers Have Roman's Respect
Most of the buzz about the Chiefs is titled toward the offensive side of the ball, but Roman's job is to dissect Kansas City's defense. The Chiefs have two defensive linemen who were Pro Bowlers last year, Chris Jones and Frank Clark, and safety Tyrann Mathieu has long been recognized as a dynamic player.
A week after preparing for Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, the Ravens face another challenge.
"That's the NFL for you, now you get Chris Jones," Roman said. "This guy is playing better than any defensive lineman we'll see from any other team. He has all the tools and his wares are on display every week, so we have our work cut out for us. The back end is lead by Mathieu, who is very active in all phases of their defense. He's a very instinctive player, playmaker-type and really is a catalyst for them."
Jones had nine sacks last year and 1.5 so far this season. Clark dropped to eight sacks last year after getting 13 sacks in 2018. He and Jones will be a test for Baltimore's offensive line.
"That's why I'm here, to play against the best competition in the world," right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. "I understand I've got to bring my lunch pail every week. I expect to see the best rushers week in and week out."
Ravens, Chiefs Have Supreme Confidence in Field Goal Kickers
Justin Tucker of the Ravens is the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker made a 58-yard field goal in overtime that lifted Kansas City to victory in Week 2, and he has earned his place as one of the game's best. Butker's career field-goal percentage (90.18) is second in the league behind Tucker (90.91).
Ravens second-year Special Teams Coach Chris Horton smiled when asked if this is the best kicking matchup he has ever been part of.
"This might be," Horton said. "What we have here in our Wolfpack with Justin, he's been unbelievable in his career. What you're seeing from Harrison from a young guy out in Kansas City, he's strong mentally. He's locked in. This will be fun to see."