Chiefs defense prepare to defend Ravens QB Lamar Jackson in AFC Championship

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If there’s one young quarterback who compares to Patrick Mahomes the most, it’s Lamar Jackson.

The Baltimore Ravens quarterback compares better athletically to Mahomes (although he is arguably more athletic) than Josh Allen or Joe Burrow and he is on the verge of his second MVP-winning season.

A Super Bowl win for the Ravens would bring Jackson even closer to Mahomes in terms of greatness. And that SB could come this season for the AFC 1-seed Ravens.

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Jackson is more worried about the AFC championship though, before thinking ahead.

“The mission isn’t complete,” Jackson said about potentially taking the Ravens to the Super Bowl. “Once that mission is complete, then I’m going to have an answer for you.”

Jackson and Mahomes have already paid their proper respects to each other this week.

But the Chiefs and their elite defense will work to stop Jackson and Baltimore’s high-powered offense that saw Jackson throw for 3,678 yards, 24 touchdowns and rush for 821 yards and five touchdowns.

Those numbers put the Ravens in the top five of points per game (28.4) and yards per play (5.85) and Jackson leads a running game that is at the top of the NFL at 156.5 yards a game.

“Lamar’s athleticism is second to none,” safety Justin Reid said. “His strength, his power, the way that he’s able to run the ball, his speed to get around the edge and be able to get North and South, all of those things are a big challenge for us, so we’re going to have to have our P’s and Q’s knocked out on.”

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“When I go back to my rookie year and watch how he operated to how he operates now, you can tell he’s more confident in himself, the players around him, the scheme. It just kind of slowed the game down for him,” linebacker Nick Bolton said. Bolton leads the league in tackles this postseason.

“I feel like it’s helped him continue to get better and better as the years go by,” he said. “I think last year he looked pretty good as well before he got hurt. He’s just building year after year, giving himself a chance in the pocket, not escaping as much, keeping his eyes down the field and letting his pass catchers be explosive.”

“The league is lucky to have these young quarterbacks that are so good – talented,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. “They’ve got a good team around him and he’s good, so you figured that somewhere we were going to be playing them once or twice.”

Ravens coaches and players also acknowledge how good the Chiefs’ defense is despite having a few starters that may not play.

“What a great job they’ve done collectively,” Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. “Their coaches – and I know a number of those guys – they’re outstanding coaches. They have outstanding players. They’re very disruptive.

“Whatever you’re going to run, you better have the answers for what they’re going to give you. They’re certainly … And it isn’t something that’s a game or two. When you’re fourth in the league in yards per play [allowed], and I don’t know how many games they haven’t given up 20 points, but you can see it on tape – how hard they play, they tackle well, they’re well-coached and they are very disruptive.”

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“They run to the ball, and they play hard,” rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers said. Flowers leads the team with 858 receiving yards and is second with five touchdowns. “They play hard and they’ve got a good thing going on their defense right now. It’s going to be a fun game.”

For a quarterback like Jackson who is great on the move and inside the pocket, the Chiefs will try to cut off his rushing lanes when he’s in the pocket and will likely have a spy for him on certain plays similar to how they defended Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen in the AFC Divisional Round.

“Try to contain him in the pocket as much as we can to make sure that we get him on the ground in those times that he does run,” Justin Reid said. “He can still make all of the throws like everybody else. When you get to this level of football, all the games are at the highest level that they can possibly be.”

The Chiefs come into their sixth straight AFC Championship with a lot of buzz despite being four-point underdogs in the sports books. A win for the Chiefs would be their second straight Super Bowl appearance and third appearance in the last five seasons.

For Baltimore, it would be their first Super Bowl appearance in over a decade when head coach John Harbaugh beat his brother and now Los Angeles Chargers head coach Jim (then-San Francisco 49ers head coach) in SB 47.

Both teams have their sights set on Las Vegas and Jackson could be the main reason the Ravens get there as the Super Bowl-defending Chiefs work to extend their legacy.

“We can’t overshadow what’s in front of us right now – not at all,” Jackson said. “Those guys are the former Super Bowl champions, and to be a champion, you’ve got to go through a champion. So, that’s pretty much the mindset.”

“They’ve showed that throughout the year, how competitive they are against the better teams in the league,” Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones said. “Look at a team like San Fran, look at what they did to Miami. They’ve been showing that type of dominance throughout this year, so it’s going to be tough.

“It’s a challenge, but I’m excited for it.”

Kickoff is 2 p.m. om Sunday.

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