Coming into the heavyweight Sunday Night Football matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was 0-3 against his rival signal-caller, Patrick Mahomes since he came into the league in 2018. That all changed when the Ravens took down the Chiefs in a 36-35 Week 2 thriller. The home team solidified the win against their AFC rivals when coach John Harbaugh said seven words to Jackson, and the QB answered, “Hell yeah!”
Lamar Jackson finally beat Patrick Mahomes
The 2018 season was Lamar Jackson’s rookie year and Patrick Mahomes’ first year as a full-time starter. The two young stars faced off that year and in every season since. Before Sunday night, though, Mahomes was undefeated against his younger rival.
Mahomes’ dominance over Jackson was getting more pronounced over the years as well. The first meeting was a 27-24 overtime nail-biter where Mahomes narrowly prevailed. The margins of victory got larger as the years progressed, however. In 2019, the Chiefs won 33-28, and in 2020, it was a 34-20 victory over the Ravens.
Most expected the 2021 chapter of the QB rivalry to go to form. After a hard-fought overtime loss to the Raiders in Week 1, Baltimore was a 3.5-point home dog coming into the game.
The prime-time game was exactly the offensive slug-fest you home for when two premier NFL QBs meet. After throwing a pick-six on the opening drive, Jackson and the Ravens kept it on the ground for the most part and ran all over the Chiefs’ defense.
On the other side, despite the Ravens D shutting down WR Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs had their way through the air, with Mahomes throwing for 343 yards.
After trailing for most of the game, Jackson flipped (literally) into the endzone with just over three minutes left to take the lead. Then, driving for a game-winning score with less than 90 seconds left, Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumbled, and Baltimore recovered.
The Ravens got the ball back and gained almost nine yards, leaving them a 4th-and-1 with 1:05 on the clock.
That’s when coach John Harbaugh asked the all-important seven-word question to his star QB.
John Harbaugh got the go-ahead from Jackson then made a gutsy call to win the game
Following the Baltimore Ravens’ 3rd-and-7 pass completion to Sammy Watkins to make it 4th-and-1, the NBC television cameras cut to John Harbaugh on the sideline. Viewers could see Baltimore’s 14th-year head coach calling to his QB, and it was easy to read his lips.
“Lamar! Lamar! Do you want to go for this?” Harbaugh yelled from the sidelines. After the game, Jackson told sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya his response was, “Hell yeah,” and, on TV, you can see Harbaugh mutter, “Let’s go.”
With commentators Chris Collinsworth and Al Michaels fretting over the bold decision in the background, the Ravens made the call, and, just seconds later, Jackson took the ball himself and picked his way through the middle of the line to find the first down.
One kneel-down later, and the Ravens finally got their first victory over Mahomes in the Lamar Jackson era.
It took a bold decision at the end, but throughout the game, the Ravens seemed to find something that the Chiefs defense just couldn’t stop: the run game.
Did the Ravens find the Chiefs’ Achilles heel?
The NFL is a passing league in 2021. It is all about quarterbacks and skill position pass-catchers on offense and pass rushers and cornerbacks on defense.
After throwing an opening drive INT, Jackson and the Ravens went back to an old-school philosophy: run the ball.
The Ravens put up a staggering 251 rushing yards on the Chiefs on 41 carries. Three of Baltimore’s four touchdowns came on the ground as well. This attack could serve as a blueprint on how to beat the mighty Chiefs in the future. It is a plan of attack that keeps Mahomes and his high-powered offense off the field. It also takes the team’s ball-hawking secondary out of play.
The only problem with using this strategy as a blueprint is that the other 30 NFL teams are missing one key element: Lamar Jackson.
The former Louisville Cardinal is just 43 starts into his NFL career but is already on par or better than the best running QBs of all time, like Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick, and Steve Young. On Sunday night, he put up 107 of his team’s 251 rushing yards on a team-high 16 carries.
Many of these carries came on read options where Jackson completely flummoxed the Chiefs’ defensive ends. He gained big chunks of yards by reading their moves after the snap. While this may be the perfect play to fluster the Chiefs’ D, few NFL QBs can execute it at a high level. And, there are likely none who can do it as well as Jackson.
The Baltimore Ravens might have found their best scheme for beating the Chiefs, but, unfortunately for the rest of the league, it probably won’t help all that many other teams.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference