Both Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes are ranked among the NFL’s top quarterbacks — not only in 2020 but perhaps of their time. But only one of them found success in the prime-time lights of “Monday Night Football” to close Week 3. Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens started hot with a promising opening drive to score first at home, but it was Mahomes who stole the show in a battle of former league MVPs, totaling five touchdowns in easily his best bid to recapture hardware in 2020. Helped by a Chiefs defense that completely stymied Baltimore’s passing attack, Mahomes and Andy Reid got the better of John Harbaugh’s club in the potential AFC Championship preview, with the visiting Chiefs claiming a 34-20 victory to improve to 3-0.
Here are some immediate takeaways from Monday night’s thriller:
Why the Chiefs won
Patrick Mahomes, who became the fastest QB to reach 10,000 yards passing for a career (34 games) during the first half, was apparently determined to prove his superiority in a game featuring two former MVPs at quarterback, and boy did he do just that. No. 15 simply could not be contained, even by a talented Baltimore “D.” His trademark arm was on display for a handful of perfect deep balls, and his legs were also an underrated factor throughout the night, contributing to a truly MVP-caliber five-touchdown night. It didn’t matter who he was throwing to — Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Eric Fisher (!). The accuracy was there. The touch was there. He was nearly flawless. K.C. also benefited from Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s obvious versatility, with the rookie gashing the Ravens on the ground and out wide, while the defense was practically just as imposing, or at least when it mattered most. Led by veterans Frank Clark and Chris Jones, who combined for three sacks, the Chiefs left Lamar Jackson frequently frustrated, almost entirely eliminating Baltimore’s downfield passing game.
Why the Ravens lost
Lamar Jackson may be among the NFL’s most electrifying talents, but Monday was not his night. The QB’s freakish speed was on display plenty of times, and right out of the gate, it looked as if it might lead Baltimore to a big home victory. Through the air, however, he was virtually a non-factor, connecting best with running back J.K. Dobbins while failing to hit on several late-game deep shots. Jackson’s legs also worked against him in some cases, with the QB basically running himself out of a clean pocket and into trouble, particularly as the game neared its end. Somehow, early on, the Ravens got away from their run-heavy attack despite flashes from both Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards, and they could never recover. Defensively, it’s hard to blame them for failing to slow a talent like Mahomes, but still, you can’t expect to blow that many coverages and win a shootout. Allowing K.C. to convert on nearly all of their third downs, they struggled mightily to keep the ball in Jackson’s hands as time wore on.
The Ravens had almost all of the momentum about halfway through the second quarter. Devin Duvernay had just returned a kickoff 93 yards for a TD to bring the team within three. The defense forced a three-and-out right afterward. But then, despite a promising run-first drive to open the game and get themselves on the board, the Ravens inexplicably dialed up three straight passing plays. Jackson hit the first, then misfired on targets to both Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews, setting up the Ravens’ own punt. Just like that, a chance to really flip the script fell flat, and K.C. proceeded to respond with a six-play, 75-yard TD drive to bust things open.
Play of the game
You could’ve picked any one of Mahomes’ TD passes, but his moon shot to Hardman probably takes the cake, even though Tyreek Hill’s own scoring catch was a much tougher reception. First, Mahomes backpedaled more than you’d like to see your QB do, but then out came this year’s second-longest completion in terms of air yards traveled:
The Chiefs (3-0) will return home in Week 4 to host the New England Patriots (2-1), who just outlasted the Las Vegas Raiders. The Ravens (2-1), meanwhile, will hit the road to take on the Washington Football Team (1-2), which has surrendered at least 30 points in two straight losses.