PRESTON: Ravens' blowout loss to Chiefs is kind of defeat that leaves season-lasting scars

The Baltimore Sun (TNS)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) is hit by Kansas City Chiefs defensive ends Michael Danna (51) and Frank Clark (55) during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

These are the kind of losses that scar teams, sometimes for the entire season.

The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t just physically beat the Baltimore Ravens on “Monday Night Football," but might have damaged their psyche as well. After two straight closes losses to the Chiefs in the regular season, the Ravens were blown out by the defending Super Bowl champions.

The 34-20 loss was much worse than the final margin of victory might indicate. Kansas City had 517 yards of total offense and had the ball for nearly 34 minutes. The Chiefs converted on 10 of 13 third downs, and the only reason they didn’t win by more was because kicker Harrison Butker had a bad night and Kansas City stumbled and fumbled its way through the third quarter.

After the Ravens got trounced last season by the Tennessee Titans in a divisional-round game and handled by the Chiefs again, little else matters this season until they win a playoff game.

Or beat Kansas City.

“Obviously, we haven’t beaten them. So, they’ve outplayed us in all three games, if you want to go back for three years,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “But we didn’t play well today. They beat us. They out-executed us. They out-game planned us. They just beat us. So, that’s the story tonight.

"Big picture stuff [and] all that, I don’t know. They’re better, obviously. They’re a better football team at this point in time. So, you win, or you learn, and we have a lot to learn from this game right here.”

Big tease: The Ravens were the big tease last season, winning 14 of 16 regular-season games and securing home-field advantage for the playoffs. Quarterback Lamar Jackson was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player and Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman were the named the top coach and assistant of the year, respectively.

The Ravens had nine players go to the Pro Bowl, but it all meant nothing because they bombed in the playoffs and failed to host a second postseason game. They are in danger of flaming out again.

On a national stage, in the league’s weekly showcase game of the week, they got smacked around in a performance that’s going to be tough to overcome. Harbaugh can talk about playing one game at a time and moving on to the next contest, but it’s not that easy when you are supposed to be one of the two best teams in the league and the other top team beats you in your own house.

Failing a test: If this game was a test, the Ravens failed.

Good teams expose lesser talented ones, and the Ravens' weaknesses were on display, some of them the same as last year. They still can’t get consistent pressure on an opposing quarterback, even though they spent a lot of money in the offseason to upgrade their defensive line.

When the Ravens fall behind, they have trouble catching up because the offensive line is top heavy and struggles in pass protection. That’s an indication that they need to be mentally stronger as well.

How can a team come out and be so lackluster against Kansas City? They were in the same twilight zone they couldn’t snap out of during that playoff loss to Tennessee. That has to change.

“It looked like the same thing from the Tennessee game, to be honest – that’s all,” Jackson said.

Jackson gives the offense an extra dimension with his running ability, but at the same time, he takes one away. Few of the league’s top teams will fear the Ravens' deep passing game. Jackson throws few passes outside the numbers downfield, and the Chiefs took away a lot of those crossing patterns Jackson likes to throw to receiver Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews. When he did make good throws, the Ravens dropped them.

No comparison between Jackson, Mahomes: There is very little to compare between Jackson and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Jackson is a great athlete who plays quarterback and Mahomes is a great quarterback who can beat any team with his arms or his legs. There are only a few quarterbacks in the history of the NFL that could make some of the throws Mahomes made Monday night.

Since the Ravens couldn’t get pressure on Mahomes, they tried to blitz him. That works against the Cleveland Browns' Baker Mayfield, but not Mahomes, who completed 31 of 42 passes for 385 yards and four touchdowns. At times, the Chiefs made the Ravens look as if they were defending a 7-on-7 passing drill in training camp. Kansas City exposed every Ravens defensive weakness, including rushing for 132 yards on 31 carries.

Chiefs won coaching battle: Chiefs coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy took apart Harbaugh and Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale as well. Kansas City came out with several formations and presnap motions. They ran reverses and tricks plays, and the Ravens had no clue.

The loss had to make a lot of people around the country second-guess themselves about why they rated the Ravens so high. It couldn’t have been the secondary, because that group got toasted and looked lost against the Chiefs. The Ravens acquired defensive ends Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe during the offseason, but the Ravens only hit Mahomes four times.

It’s only Week 3, so it’s difficult to pin so much on one game, regardless if it’s a win or loss.

But the entire 2020 season is predicated on what the Ravens do in the playoffs. They were supposed to play Kansas City in Baltimore last season in what many believed would be the AFC championship game.

Monday night was supposed to be the preview of the 2021 title game.

I hope not. The Chiefs won another game, a head game, over the Ravens. And until proven otherwise with a win in the postseason, the Ravens have another big blemish.