Five thoughts on the Ravens' 33-28 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium:
The Ravens started well, with their offense generating a long touchdown drive while their defense repeatedly hounded and hit Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Soon enough, though, a more sobering reality became evident. The Chiefs' defense had a better handle on Lamar Jackson than either of the Ravens' first two opponents. And the Ravens' defense couldn't really stop Mahomes, who just might be unstoppable. The end result was a defeat that reminded the Ravens that they have more work to do to join the AFC's elite. They did have some tough luck with bounces and penalties that could have changed the course of the game, and their late rally, cutting a 17-point deficit to five, was impressive. "We get a little better, we win games like that," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. The problem was they got too far behind, which can happen when the other team generates 503 yards of offense. An NFL schedule is full of challenges, and facing Mahomes in Kansas City is right at the top. On to the next.
The Ravens' offense made a lot of noise late, putting together scoring drives of 70, 59 and 75 yards in the fourth quarter. Mark Ingram II finished off a huge day. Lamar Jackson made a bunch of "streetball" plays to extend drives and put up points. The unit's overall statistics were terrific – 29 first downs, 452 yards. But they're a bit misleading because the Chiefs' defense had the upper hand until late. A bunch of factors contributed. The Chiefs clogged the middle of the field, taking away Mark Andrews, Jackson's favorite target. The Ravens' wide receivers still struggled to gain separation at times. Jackson was under steady pressure, didn't always look comfortable in the pocket, overthrew several open receivers and had three passes batted down. As always, he blamed himself. "There were a lot of throws I should have made," he said. It might have helped him to hand off a bit more, as the running game was highly effective throughout, with Ingram and Gus Edwards averaging 6.7 yards on 23 carries.
I'm sure some second-guessers will have a field day with Harbaugh, who called for the offense to attempt three two-point conversions, none of which succeeded, and also went for it four times on fourth down, converting three. I admit, I didn't always get the thinking, but I completely understood the mindset, namely, that the Ravens weren't going to beat the high-flying Chiefs in Kansas City by a) not taking risks and b) settling for field goals and otherwise possibly leaving points on the field. It didn't result in a win and surely will get talked to death, but keep in mind, even if the Ravens had not gambled on any of the two-points tries, they would have been in exactly the same position in the end, i.e., needing to recover an onside kick to have any chance. This much I know: Harbaugh is relying on the team's data analysts, who can tell you whether any decision increases or decreases his chances of winning, and as Harbaugh has said before, the evidence is irrefutable on a coach being as aggressive as he was Sunday. (Do it, the data says.) For the record, the players loved the aggressiveness, which won't be curtailed. I might focus on the execution of the failed plays rather than the decision to go for it.
The Ravens had little margin for error, as is true for any opponent of the Chiefs, especially in Kansas City. To pull off the upset, the Ravens needed a few things to go their way. Instead, a lot of little things didn't. Cornerback Anthony Averett slid over a fumble instead of falling on the loose ball, allowing the Chiefs to extend a drive. A 52-yard run by Gus Edwards was nullified by a questionable holding call on Willie Snead IV. A Brandon Carr interception was nullified by a pass interference call on Tony Jefferson that the Ravens heatedly argued. Peanut Onwuasor put his fingertips on what would have been a leaping interception, only to see the pass become a big play for the Chiefs. A pass interference call on Miles Boykin nullified a big gain when, in fact, he was blocking on what looked like a lateral play, not a pass. Things did even out late, as the Ravens benefited from a couple of Hail Mary completions by Jackson, which fueled their comeback. But they could have used more of those variable elements going their way. (And yes, I'd certainly call the officiating a variable element.)
Quick hits: With 257 rushing yards and five touchdowns in three games, Ingram is looking like one of the year's best free agent signings … Gus Edwards made the most of his nine touches, totaling 68 yards while running with a fury that all but said, "Hey, don't forget about me" … The usual aggressiveness of the Ravens' defense was effective early, but Mahomes eventually was able to take advantage of it with quick releases … Matthew Judon is answering the question, asked by many, about how he would fare without Terrell Suggs on the other side. He had another sack and four quarterback hits, his season high, on Sunday. In three games, he has recorded three sacks and nine quarterback hits … There's no time for the Ravens to exhale. Their next game, at home against the Cleveland Browns, has major divisional ramifications and is even bigger than this game was. I'll say it again: On to the next.
Check out the best photos from the Ravens' game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.