In the Lamar Jackson era, the only proven method to turning the Baltimore Ravens into an average team is to get a big lead early.
That’s easy to say and hard to pull off. Not everyone has a Patrick Mahomes to slice up the Ravens defense, like the Kansas City Chiefs did on Monday night. But it’s foolproof. When the Ravens trail, they’re in trouble.
The Ravens got swarmed on Monday night. Other than a kickoff return touchdown by Devin Duvernay, they were run off their own field by the Chiefs in the first half. Any thought that the Ravens could make a statement to the Chiefs that they were ready to dethrone them in the AFC vanished quickly. The Ravens rallied in the second half, cutting the Chiefs’ lead to seven points, but the hole was too big to dig out of. The Chiefs were the team to make a statement with a 34-20 win that gives them a huge edge to get the lone AFC bye in the NFL’s expanded playoff format.
For a Ravens team that has had a pair of poor playoff performances the past two seasons, failing to show up on a big stage was troubling. And it will restart the old criticisms of Jackson.
Chiefs dominated first half
By halftime, the Ravens were done. Pick any stat you want to show how dominant the Chiefs were. Kansas City had 333 yards to 97 for Baltimore. The first downs were 18-5. The Chiefs had 280 net passing yards and the Ravens had 26. It was shocking to see the Ravens get outplayed like they did.
Jackson will take most of the heat. At halftime, when Mahomes had 260 yards, three passing touchdowns and one rushing, Jackson was stuck on 35 passing yards on 15 attempts. He didn’t get helped by his receivers, who dropped multiple passes. That won’t matter. “Monday Night Football” was billed as a showdown between the past two MVPs, and it was a first-round knockout for Mahomes.
The Ravens rallied in the second half. They got a stop on fourth down near midfield, and scored right after that to cut Kansas City’s lead to 27-20. But then Mahomes and the Chiefs went on a long drive, capped by a Mahomes touchdown pass to offensive lineman Eric Fisher, and the Chiefs led by 14 again. And since the Ravens aren’t built to come back, it was all but over at that point.
Jackson hasn’t had many bad days as Ravens quarterback, but most of them have followed the same script. In a big game, the Ravens fall behind early, Jackson struggles and the deficit gets worse. That happened in a playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in Jackson’s rookie season, to the Tennessee Titans last postseason and to the Chiefs on Monday night.
Jackson is a phenomenal player who has an inordinate amount of critics because he is unconventional. All of them will have something to say this week.
Ravens rallied in second half
The Ravens run an offense unlike any other in the NFL. They want to use their quarterback as their main weapon in the running game. That opens up the middle of the field for Jackson, where he is an effective passer.
That offense is not great in comeback mode. When the Ravens fall behind, they look uncomfortable. According to NFL Research, via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the Ravens are 0-10 when trailing at halftime since drafting Jackson in 2018. That is a problem because it’s hard to go through the playoffs without facing a deficit. It’s something Jackson and the Ravens will have to work on if they want to take the next step in the postseason.
There might just be one team in the NFL that can slam the Ravens as hard as the Chiefs did in the first half. It’s not easy to get the Ravens into a disadvantageous position. But when the Ravens do fall behind, it’s ugly. They might need to figure that out in case they face the Chiefs again in January.
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