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Ravens Defense: Patrick Mahomes Is Elite, But So Are We

OLB Odafe Oweh
OLB Odafe Oweh

Whenever Ravens defenders are asked to speak about the virtues of an opposing quarterback, it's like they have gasoline in their mouth. The words taste disgusting.

That doesn't change going up against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs' offensive machine in this Sunday's AFC Championship.

The Ravens defense has shown its respect for one of the best quarterbacks in the game, but it's not going to kowtow.

"Yes, he's an elite quarterback," linebacker Roquan Smith said. "But at the end of the day, we're an elite defense."

It's going to be a clash at M&T Bank Stadium, as the Ravens' top-ranked defense in points per game squares off against a two-time MVP and two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

The Ravens have gone through some top-flight quarterbacks this year – beating Jared Goff, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Matthew Stafford, Trevor Lawrence, Brock Purdy, and Tua Tagovailoa to name a few during the regular season. Baltimore dismantled Texans rookie sensation C.J. Stroud last week in the divisional playoffs.

On Wednesday, Smith was asked whether he views the Mahomes challenge as a "graduate-level" course.

"I think it's a course that has to be done, and we're going to get it done," Smith replied. "That's the message. He puts his pants on just like any other quarterback."

Mahomes’ trainer, Bobby Stroupe, took notice. He seems to be hungry for bulletin board material, and Smith hasn't been afraid to dish it out all season. He's backed it up, too.

Mahomes' stats have dipped this season. His passing yards went from 5,250 to 4,183. His touchdown passes dropped from 41 to 27. He threw a career-high 14 interceptions.

Last year's numbers were ridiculous, so that was always going to be a high bar to match, and there's plenty of reasons for the dip in production (drops have plagued the Chiefs' receivers). But there's no denying that the Chiefs offense has hit some bumps this year, finishing No. 9 in total offense (351.3 yards per game) and No. 15 in points per game (21.8).

But the Ravens aren't fooled. They still know a special challenge awaits.

"We all know he is an elite quarterback, does everything well," Smith said. "Personally, just his ability to be able to read coverages, as well as extend plays, extend plays with his legs, and then if you're not plastering [him], being able to throw it down the field, [he] can hurt you that way. He's a great quarterback, we all know that, but so are we on defense. So we'll see."

Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce was on the field for Mahomes' no-look pass in 2018. In fact, it whizzed right past his head.

"I get reminded of it every time they show a commercial. He's obviously a special guy," Pierce said. "We've seen him just make a whole bunch of just unbelievable plays. So, when plays break down, he can extend those plays, find guys deep, find guys low, and they've got guys that can run.

"But at the end of the day – like I said – we've got a Ravens decal; we expect to play one way, and that's what it has to be to be able to beat him."

When it comes to Mahomes' creativity and ability to make extended plays, the Ravens defense does have the advantage of playing against that in practice. Mahomes and Lamar Jackson do it different ways, but there are some commonalities.

"Seeing that look in practice ... [for us to] plaster our DBs when the quarterback gets out of the pocket is really helpful for us, and we are going to be able to apply it this week," safety Kyle Hamilton said.

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