Once again, the Ravens defense couldn't handle the firepower of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Patrick Mahomes worked his magic, particularly on third down. Baltimore's defense made some costly mistakes. And some imaginative play-calling by Kansas City crossed up Baltimore's defense.
Kansas City scored 27 points in the first half and rolled to a 34-20 victory in a much-anticipated Monday night matchup at M&T Bank Stadium. Mahomes was superb (31 for 42, 385 yards, four touchdown passes, no interceptions).
Mahomes was so good that it led to Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith coining a new phrase. There's no longer just elite. Mahomes is "extremely elite," Smith said.
Mahomes did much of his damage on third down when Baltimore's defense couldn't get off the field. The Chiefs were 10-of-13 on third down as Mahomes found just about every way around the Ravens' defensive play-calls.
"You win third down, you usually win the game," Campbell said. "It seemed like every third down, they found a way to make a play. In the big moments, that mattered."
In three career games against the Ravens, Mahomes has thrown for at least 374 yards each time, and the Ravens have lost each time. It didn't matter that the Ravens had added key pieces to their defense with Campbell, Marcus Peters, Patrick Queen, Derek Wolfe and others since the last time these teams had met. The Chiefs still created a ton of mismatches and kept making plays, and Mahomes was at the center of it.
"They don't give that guy a half-a-million dollars for no reason," Campbell said. "He's an incredible talent. He just made play after play."
On Kansas City's first touchdown, Mahomes casually ran into the end zone on 3-yard scramble after he couldn't find anyone open in the end zone. As great as he is throwing the football, Mahomes makes some of his biggest plays with his legs. The Ravens never sacked Mahomes, as he found a way to escape whenever he was pressured.
"We tried a few different things," Campbell said. "He has great pocket presence, sees things. He's a great quarterback. We had opportunities, but when we did, we didn't get there."
Kansas City's offense isn't just talented, it's creative. For much of the night, Baltimore seemed a half-step behind, and the Chiefs weren't shy about going into their bag of tricks.
Their second touchdown came on a 5-yard underhand shovel pass from Mahomes to fullback Anthony Sherman. It was a beautifully designed play on which Sherman blocked first, then released into the middle of the field and crossed in front of Mahomes to create a lane for the shovel pass.
The Chiefs' final touchdown came on a 2-yard pass from Mahomes to offensive tackle Eric Fisher, who was wide open after reporting into the game as an eligible receiver. The Ravens simply didn't have enough answers for the matchup problems the Chiefs created.
"Well, we were hoping they would work," Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid said. "There is nothing like Monday Night Football, so it's a just a good time to use it."
"What they did was really good," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "A lot of misdirection, jet screens, ghost motions, screens, double screens, passing routes, draws off of that. A lot of stuff they do causes a lot of problems."
But Mahomes was the biggest problem for Baltimore. One of his best passes of the night was a 49-yard strike to Mecole Hardman that came after what looked like a blown assignment in the secondary that left Hardman wide open. When Mahomes sees an open receiver downfield, he has more than enough arm strength to make the throw.
"They had a lot of eye candy going on," Smith said. "They had a great game plan, the executed very well. They schemed up a few good plays and got us. They found the holes in the zone, exploited the holes in our game right now in our defense, in our passing coverage.
"They're the champs for a reason. It's one of those games that's embarrassing a little bit to be in because we pride ourselves on defense. But at the same time, we get to learn from it."
Queen, the Ravens' first-round rookie inside linebacker, was playing in his first primetime game and found out how good Mahomes is in person. Perhaps Mahomes' best throw of the night was to rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a former teammate of Queen's at LSU. Edwards-Helaire got a step on Queen and Mahomes lofted a perfect pass over Queen's head that allowed Edwards-Helaire to make a nice catch. Queen ended up watching one late series from the sideline as Chris Board stepped in beside L.J. Fort.
The loss snapped Baltimore's 14-game regular-season winning streak and once again, Mahomes had his way. Until they beat Kansas City with Mahomes at the helm, they will have to hear question about why they haven't.
"We haven't beaten them. They've outplayed us in all three games if you want to go back the three years," Harbaugh said. "They outexecuted us, they out-gameplanned us. They just beat us. That's the story tonight."