Takeaways from Chiefs vs Ravens

Chiefs (1-1) – 35 vs. Ravens (1-1) – 36

The Ravens and Lamar Jackson slayed the demon that was the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night under the lights at M&T Stadium in Baltimore. While NBC was thrilled with a game of that magnitude, Chiefs fans everywhere have to be incensed with that effort.

A gutless performance by the Chiefs’ defense leaves the Chiefs at 1-1. Did we go back in time? What year is it again? Is it 2018? Bob Sutton is that you? Is it 2001? Has Greg Robinson returned masquerading as Spags? That must be what the Kingdom faithful thought they were watching, all those haunting memories flooding back drive after drive.

The defense had zero answers for Lamar and zero adjustments for the Ravens run option game. Imagine what the score would have been had Tyrann Mathieu not had two interceptions. The Ravens could have hung 50+ points up on what is supposed to be a healthy (minus Willie Gay) D.

The Defense

Let’s start with the obvious, this was one of the worst defensive performances in recent memory. The Ravens shredded the “defense” for stunning 251 yards on the ground and racked up a staggering 31 first downs. Let’s drive that number home with the fact that only six of those came on 3rd down, meaning 25 first downs came on 1st, 2nd, or as we know, on that fateful 4th down play to seal the game.

The defense allowed 7.1 yards a play and surrendered 481 total yards. After what appeared to be a promising start with Mathieu’s first of two INTs just :50 seconds into the game, the tide turned quick. There were breakdowns on every level with receivers left wide open, huge running lanes, and Jackson slicing past arm tackles. The Honey Badger had two picks but was also called for two costly penalties, although the second was highly questionable.

As Jackson continually tore through the defense with great reads, the Chiefs had no answer unless the Ravens stopped themselves, they were destined for points. It’s almost as if the Chiefs didn’t watch film to prepare because they appeared completely lost.

The Chiefs gave up more than 35 points twice last season, both games ended in losses. This defense was tested last week against Cleveland and found a way in the 2nd half. The return of the Honey Badger and Frank Clark was supposed to make all the difference this week. Their returns did nothing to spark this group.

Clark was credited with 2 tackles. That’s right, 2. Chris Jones didn’t register a solo tackle for the game, ZERO. He was credited with an assist. The Chiefs’ front seven should have been licking their chops going against this offensive line, yet they were dominated. Chiefs opponents are now a perfect 8-8 in red-zone scoring, that is 100%.

Last season, the Chiefs were one of the league’s worst surrendering touchdowns on 77% of red-zone trips. So much for addressing those issues in the off-season. The lone bright spot, if there was one (let’s try to find a positive I guess), it was Nick Bolton.

Bolton was credited with a team tying 8 tackles and 1 assist. Anthony Hitchens was also credited with 8 tackles, although this further emphasizes how many tackles were being made on the second level, not by the front four. What makes these stats even more disappointing, the Ravens ran 68 plays, which seems like plenty of opportunities to make a tackle. Sad.

The Offense

It is hard to criticize the offense when they got zero help from the other side of the ball, but they were not void of mistakes. The biggest? Patrick Mahomes’ first interception in September. No one can make the argument that the throw at the end of the 3rd quarter was nothing more than a poor decision. PM 15 does not make many bad decisions and clearly watching his defense getting diced up, felt like it is all on him, but there was no reason to throw that ball.

The short field that turnover provided gave the Ravens the momentum that changed the game. While it was clear by halftime that the defense wasn’t going to bail the offense out if they made even the slightest mistake, the interception was a big mistake. It is a shame this game was such a defensive meltdown, lost will be some amazing throws by PM 15, Kelce’s phenomenal 46-yard touchdown catch and run, as well as, Byron Pringle’s 40-yard touchdown.

Mahomes has played this role before, in college he was never afforded a quality defense and well, here he is again. In games like this PM 15 must find himself compelled to carry the entire team, score on every possession and play 100% mistake-free. Also sad.

Andy Reid’s game plan was a departure from week #1 when they fell behind early. It appeared that the Chiefs were playing power football at times during the game. Reid seemed committed to establishing the run and test out the ability of the revamped offensive line.

Minus a Mahomes scramble, the Chiefs ran the ball 17 times, but only gained 58 yards or 3.4 yards a carry. While somewhat surprising to see Reid stay committed to a ground game, the O-line did not establish themselves as a dominant force against a battered Ravens defense.

And as we all know; those 17 carries were one too many after Edwards-Helaire was hit in the backfield and coughed his first-ever fumble. However, he picked a terrible time to register that fumble as it robbed the Chiefs of a potential game-winning field goal.

In his defense, did he even take two steps before being blown up? The offensive line should share some credit for that turnover. Speaking of O-line, Creed Humphrey struggled in his first prime-time appearance, struggling with some blocking assignments and an unfortunate bad snap.

If this is the defense the Chiefs are saddled with and teams are willing to throw everything they have at the Chiefs, the Chiefs simply can’t punt again this season. Reid needs to find a way to get this run game on track or just be resigned to Air Mahomes. If there was a week to get it on track, it seemed like this was it, hats off to the young Ravens players who stepped up. Credit where credit is due, sadly.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire and the Run Game

Up to this point, the first-round draft pick spent on CEH has not been worth the return on the field. CEH, after two games this season, is averaging a paltry 44.5 yards per game and only 3.3 yards per carry. In my Chiefs Concerns article, I mentioned if the Chiefs established themselves as a dual-threat with the run and pass, they would be unstoppable.

After two weeks the Chiefs run game, minus Mahomes, behind a new offensive line are averaging 53.5 yards per game. This kind of feeble production will allow teams to continue to build on the Bucs Super Bowl blueprint and play soft with two safeties and pressure Mahomes. CEH has shown flashes but has not shown much improvement from last year through two games. After investing a first-round pick, his performance this season, you guessed it: sad.

There is no panic button at 1-1 for this team and honestly, if CEH holds on to that ball the Chiefs most likely kick a field goal and go to 2-0. Hopefully, the Chiefs see this loss as a litmus test, this defense is not a playoff-caliber unit and the run game is abysmal. Sometimes winning can gloss over deficiencies (i.e. against the Browns/run game/run D), well this early season collapse should be a serious gut-check for this defense and this team.

Andy Reid is known as a master at play design, it’s time for him and the offense to start scheming a run game. This defense was embarrassed and need to find not only some confidence but take some pride in their play. Mahomes needs to have confidence that a single drive not ending in points won’t cost the game, the defense owes him that much.

The Chiefs are tied for third place with the Chargers in the AFC West behind the 2-0 Raiders and Broncos. Let that sink in for a moment. If this team wants to keep from returning to the days of one punt or one mistake by the offensive will cost the game (*see 2018 or 2001 defenses) they must learn from this loss.

With the Raiders hosting a most likely Tua-less Miami Dolphins and the Broncos hosting a hapless NY Jets team, we can almost expect both teams to improve to 3-0. When is the last time the Chiefs weren’t in 1st place in the division? Next up, the Chargers visit Arrowhead for sole possession of 3rd place in the division.