The Kansas City Chiefs average 37 points per game.
There’s nothing average about that. It’s the highest-scoring offense in the NFL, one the Ravens must cope with to win Sunday in Kansas City.
Engaging in an offensive shootout against the Chiefs is not the best recipe for the Ravens. Baltimore has reached 37 points just once this season, when it blew out the Buffalo Bills, 49-3, in Week 1. The Ravens have not won a game yet this season in which their opponent has topped 21 points.
However, the Ravens have something to hang their hats on – the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense. It’s No. 1 vs. No. 1.
Baltimore just held the high-powered Atlanta Falcons to 131 yards total offense during a 26-16 victory on Sunday. Playing the Chiefs (10-2) raises the challenge for Baltimore’s defense to another level, one that safety Eric Weddle embraces.
“We have to go out and play great to have a chance to win this game, let alone stop them,” Weddle said. “To reality, holding this team to what we did last [week] is probably not going to happen. But, we can make things tough on them. We can create turnovers. We can hold them in the red zone. So, those things are areas that we can do, and if we do that, we’ll be successful.”
Containing the Chiefs starts with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has quickly emerged as one of the NFL’s best in his first year as a starter. Mahomes leads the NFL with 41 touchdown passes, running away with that category. The next best is Saints quarterback Drew Brees with 30 touchdown passes.
Mahomes brings a unique combination of arm strength and mobility. He’s thrown for the second-most yards in the league (3,923). As good as Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan is, he doesn’t have Mahomes’ ability to escape the rush and extend plays. It will be harder for the Ravens’ pass rush to reach Mahomes than it was to take down Ryan.
But Mahomes also has a gunslinger’s mentality, unafraid to make risky throws into tight windows. Cornerback Jimmy Smith said the Ravens view Mahomes as a young, more athletic Brett Favre. Ryan (five interceptions) doesn’t take as many risks as Mahomes (10 interceptions). The Ravens haven’t gotten had an interception since Week 5 in Cleveland, and are hoping to break that streak on Sunday.
The Ravens’ deep cornerback group of Smith, Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, and Tavon Young will be challenged to cover the Chiefs’ receivers for longer periods when Mahomes escapes the pocket. Kansas City Head Coach Andy Reid is widely recognized as one of football’s most innovate offensive minds, and he will surely have some new wrinkles he believes will work against the Ravens.
“I think he’s always trying to find ways to create big plays,” Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s probably the biggest thing Andy’s always been about: opening guys up any way he could to create just really big hitters. That’s something they still continue to do – they have a lot of fast players. He’s always on the forefront of schemes. Those are the things that you contend with with Andy.”
The Ravens have a done a superb job of limiting big plays by the opposing offense (second-fewest allowed in the league), but the Chiefs are the league’s best at making them. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill has 1,119 yards and 11 touchdowns, and may be the league’s fastest player. Tight end Travis Kelce has 79 catches, nine touchdowns, and 1,082 receiving yards.
Even after releasing running back Kareem Hunt following his domestic violence incident last week, the Chiefs have enough weapons to strike quickly. Baltimore has controlled time of possession since Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback three games ago. Even if the Ravens’ offense puts together long drives, winning the time of possession battle does not guarantee the Ravens will win the game.
Nevertheless, Weddle is not opposed to seeing Baltimore’s offense chew up the clock again. It has been a great asset to the defense.
“I’ve said that after every game the last three weeks,” Weddle said. “If anyone doesn’t think that, then they don’t really know football. When you’re on the field for 20 percent less than what you normally have been, you’re obviously going to play better defense and play better as a team.”
With four games remaining, Baltimore’s top priority is to make the playoffs, and a victory in Kansas City would be a major step in that direction. The Ravens believe they have the league’s best defense, but getting another win is more important than making another defensive statement.
“It’s December,” Smith said. “If you go against a team like this, actually it’s a real test to see if you can beat them in the playoffs. They’re looking like a team that’s going to go. It’s going to be that type of challenge.”
In Week 7, it was another No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense battle when Brees and the Saints came to M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens yielded just seven points through the first three quarters, before surrendering 17 in the fourth in a 24-23 loss.
It will be another measuring stick for a Ravens defense that loves to measure up. Knowing that an average offensive game for Kansas City is 37 points, the Ravens hope to make the Chiefs’ offense look below average Sunday.
“They’re good, efficient, a lot of explosive plays pop out, great quarterback,” Weddle said. “So, it’s going to be a great one. They’re good. We’re good. And we’re excited to go out there on the field.”