Dozens of pundits publish their game predictions each week. Only two thought the Ravens could beat the Chiefs on "Sunday Night Football" in Baltimore.
The Ravens were short-handed, with the most players in the league on injured reserve – and that's not counting All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley or veteran defenders Jimmy Smith and Derek Wolfe, who also missed the game. The Chiefs, on the other hand, were totally healthy.
The Ravens were coming off a tough overtime loss, on the other side of the country, on a short week. Teams are supposed to be physically and emotionally lagged from such a defeat. The Chiefs, on the other hand, were riding an emotional Week 1 win and had not lost in September in five years.
But if Baltimore's 36-35 victory at M&T Bank Stadium taught us nothing, it's that you never count the Ravens out so long as they have two men: Head Coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Their tight relationship was on display yet again Sunday night when Harbaugh asked Jackson, with the game on the line, whether he wanted to go for it on 4th-and-1 from their own 43-yard line. Harbaugh already knew he wanted to go for it. He also knew what Jackson would say.
"We've gotten to the point where there's a lot of trust there," Harbaugh said Monday. "Hopefully, it runs both ways."
Ravens players can trust that Harbaugh isn't going to change, no matter what the circumstances are around him. He's the same guy, with the same general message, and the same approach to success. Make no excuses, just keep getting better.
So when Ravens players were dropping like flies, Harbaugh put his head down and plowed forward – not downplaying the disappointment of their losses, but not grieving them either. The season doesn't end when stars get injured.
Harbaugh relishes the underdog challenge, and that rubs off on his team. Remember last year when the Ravens went to Pittsburgh to face the undefeated Steelers with seemingly half the team on the COVID-19 list – and almost won? The Ravens viewed that game (without Jackson) as a "David vs. Goliath" type challenge, and they hurled plenty of stones at the beast.
While some folks around Baltimore may have been nervous about a possible butt-kicking coming Sunday night given the accumulation of all the circumstances, Harbaugh was pumped to take on the Chiefs. Marlon Humphrey joked that he was worried Harbaugh was peaking too early after doing a muscle-man flex in front of the team Saturday night. On Sunday, Harbaugh had a "super-peak." Humphrey loved the energy.
Harbaugh and the Ravens weren't going to back down from the challenge of taking on the back-to-back AFC champion Chiefs, winners of three straight games against the Ravens – not in the preparation leading up to the game and not with a yard to go for victory.
"I feel like that's the Raven mentality – the game is on the line, don't flinch; go for it," Humphrey said. "[Harbaugh] peaked at the right time."
Then there's Jackson. Asked by "Good Morning Football's" Kay Adams why people should never count out the Ravens, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown chuckled.
"Because we've got Lamar Jackson," he said.
There's no question that more of the Ravens' offensive onus has fallen on Jackson's shoulders with J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards done for the year and top draft pick Rashod Bateman still on the mend. When asked whether he feels that before the season-opener, Jackson shrugged it off. "I'm always going to try to do more, regardless of the fact," he said.
Jackson knows this offense revolves around his unique skillset. So long as he is on the field, opponents know they can never take their eyes off No. 8. Of course, Jackson is much better when he's protected and has weapons to throw to. But even when he doesn't, he's still capable of pulling a rabbit out of his hat at any time.
He did it time and time again in Vegas, though it got him in trouble with a couple fumbles. Against the Chiefs, there were times when it felt like there was nothing the Chiefs could do to stop Jackson from running around or juking through them. He was a man possessed.
Jackson's leaping touchdown throw to Brown was evidence itself. Tight end Mark Andrews stumbled in his route and fell to the turf, so Jackson, who had a blitz coming from his right, had to step up and buy a little time for Brown to break wide open. With the pressure in his lap, Jackson contorted his body and leapt to get the pass off.
So long as Jackson is under center, the possibility of a "wow" play such as that always exists. It's what makes him and the Ravens so fun to watch and so hard to prepare for. As new ESPN analyst and former Jackson teammate Robert Griffin III put it so brilliantly, there's no way to "figure out" Jackson because even he doesn't know what's coming next.
After Sunday's game ended, Harbaugh and Jackson embraced as they made their way to the locker room. The Ravens and the rest of the AFC North are all tied at 1-1, probably the same record a lot of people predicted for Baltimore after the first two weeks.
The Ravens still have a lot of tough games to win this season if they're going to reach their lofty goals. But despite all the setbacks over the past few weeks, with Harbaugh and Jackson leading the way, still making the playoffs and reaching those goals doesn't seem like a ridiculous thought anymore.