For the second straight week, the Ravens found themselves caught up in a thrilling, down-to-the-wire matchup in primetime. Unlike last Monday night, they came out on top this time around, toppling the Chiefs in epic fashion by a score of 36-35.
This game had just about everything you could think of. There’s a lot to unpack and it’s hard to process everything at once, but let’s get to some takeaways below.
The monkey is off the back
So much has been made of the Ravens’ struggles against the Chiefs over the past few seasons. Heading into this game, it felt like the Ravens were less-equipped to pull off a victory against Kansas City than in 2019 and 2020.
Undermanned, traveling cross-country, on a short week? Not exactly factors that bode well against a healthy juggernaut like the Chiefs.
But of course, just as everyone began to overlook them, the Ravens pulled off a miraculous victory and finally conquered their “kryptonite.” On a night where they fell behind early and trailed for most of the game, it was a heck of a gutsy effort.
A victory in Week 2 of the regular season is far from a Super Bowl, but this victory feels very significant in magnitude. A loss puts the Ravens at 0-2, squarely in last place in the division to start the season. More over, the “can’t beat Kansas City” cloud would have again loomed over them for the rest of the year. Make no mistake about it — this was no ordinary regular season victory.
The offensive line meets the moment
After a borderline awful performance in Week 1, the stock of the Ravens’ offensive line was extremely low heading into this matchup. With Ronnie Stanley and Tyre Phillips inactive, the Ravens reshuffled the starters by moving Alejandro Villanueva to left tackle and inserting Ben Powers and Patrick Mekari into the lineup.
Facing a formidable Kansas City front-seven headlined by Frank Clark and Chris Jones, the Ravens’ offensive line bounced back in a huge way.
They kept the pocket clean. They created big running lanes. Villanueva and Mekari fared well as the starting tackles, while the interior trio of Powers, Bozeman and Zeitler got consistent push up front. The Ravens have to feel encouraged by how this group played after a horrendous showing to begin the season.
Lamar Jackson was sacked once all night. The Ravens rushed for 251 yards as a team and averaged 6.1 yards per carry. Give the offensive line credit for stepping up.
The Lamar Jackson experience, in full effect
You could not have scripted a more disastrous start to this game for Lamar Jackson. The second and third plays from scrimmage saw him overthrow Marquise Brown on a potential touchdown and then throw a pick-six to Tyrann Mathieu. Two drives later, he threw maybe the worst pass of his career — an ill-advised attempt into triple coverage that was again intercepted by Mathieu.
At this point, it felt like like the wind had been taken out of Jackson and the Ravens’ sails.
But after starting the game 3/6 with two interceptions, Jackson put the team on his back when the Ravens needed him to do just that. From the second quarter on, only three of Jackson’s passes went incomplete (one was a drop by Sammy Watkins).
He showed poise in big spots and stopped forcing the issue, instead making simple and timely deliveries. Jackson orchestrated back to-back scoring drives in the second and fourth quarters, finishing with 239 passing yards, 107 rushing yards and three total touchdowns.
Jackson’s biggest moment of the game came with 1:05 left in the fourth quarter. Instead of punting the ball back to Kansas City, Jackson converted a two-yard rush on 4th-&-1 to ice the game. It came after John Harbaugh was seen mouthing, “Lamar, do you want to go for that?” from the sideline.
Presumably, it was Jackson’s call to attempt the fourth down conversion. He delivered.
Give Don “Wink” Martindale his flowers
The Ravens have had their fair share of difficulties in slowing down the Chiefs’ offense in recent years. No matter what they’ve seemed to do year after year, Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes always have had an answer.
This time around, Martindale changed things up. Instead of using a blitz-heavy game plan against the Chiefs, as they’ve often done against Kansas City (and every team), the Ravens’ defense was more conservative. They only blitzed on three of Mahomes’ 17 dropbacks in the first half and rushed four defenders the majority of plays.
Mahomes and company still got theirs — ripping off a number of big plays. However, two of Mahomes’ two passing touchdowns — the 46-yarder to Kelce and the 40-yarder to Pringle — were largely the fault of missed tackles as opposed to an error of scheme. Moreover, the strategy to make Tyreek Hill a non-factor worked to a tee, as Hill was targeted just four times on the night and caught three passes for 14 yards.
No team is going to shut down Kansas City’s offense. However, the Chiefs’ final three drives of the game resulted in an interception, punt, and fumble. Down several starters heading into tonight and losing others mid-game (DeShon Elliott, Brandon Williams), Martindale pushed the right buttons.
Odafe Oweh is way ahead of schedule
When the Ravens drafted Odafe Oweh with the No. 31 overall pick, it was surprising to some. Many pundits had him labeled as a “project” or “developmental player”, quick to point to his lack of gaudy statistical production at Penn State in 2020.
Two games into his NFL career thus far, Oweh has quickly proven doubters wrong. After playing well in Week 1 and recording a sack, Oweh was a game-changing force against the Chiefs on Sunday night.
The rookie continued to make strong plays on the edge against the run, chase ball-carriers in space, and pressure the quarterback. Most importantly, he was the driving force behind two forced turnovers late in the game.
On Patrick Mahomes’ interception in the third quarter, Oweh wrapped him up by the ankle and forced an errant throw. Then, with the Chiefs in field goal range with a chance to end the game late in the fourth quarter, Oweh knocked the ball loose from Clyde Edwards-Helaire and recovered his own forced fumble.
The draft pick the Ravens used to take Oweh was acquired from the Chiefs in exchange for Orlando Brown Jr. this offseason. That trade came full circle in this game.