HomeFootball DirtMissed Opportunity: Ravens Could Have Won Super Bowl If They Didn't Face...

Missed Opportunity: Ravens Could Have Won Super Bowl If They Didn’t Face Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs

Published on

spot_img

This was supposed to be the Baltimore Ravens’ year. They had Lamar Jackson, an MVP-caliber quarterback near the peak of his powers. Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald’s was of a historic variety, stymying every offense it faced this season. It was more akin to a suffocating boa constrictor than a group of 11 players trying to dutifully keep the offense from gaining 10 yards. Despite a rash of injuries, a well-stocked roster rife with depth came prepared to dominate every week. John Harbaugh might have done the finest coaching job of his career. Bar none. Sunday was the first time the Ravens ever hosted an AFC title game. In every phase, one could have easily argued this was the best team Baltimore’s ever fielded. A Super Bowl 58 berth — and a subsequent win — seemed all but inevitable. “How could they fall short?” was an entirely reasonable question to ask about these Ravens. The answer to that question was Patrick Mahomes — pro football’s analog to Michael Jordan and LeBron James at the same time. Put another way: an athlete who will almost always elevate his team more than the sum of its parts in the playoffs. We should’ve seen a Baltimore collapse coming from a mile away. Patrick Mahomes AGAIN the champion of the AFC pic.twitter.com/MncyBCNIaN — NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) January 28, 2024

The one way the underdog — yes, underdog — Chiefs would upset the Ravens on Sunday was if they landed a decisive punch in the early stages. Anything to seed some doubt in the NFL’s unmitigated juggernaut in 2023 would’ve sufficed. Anything to make the Ravens anxious and panic at adversity they seldom faced over the last five months. With Mahomes at the controls, the Chiefs landed a whopping haymaker instead. After the Chiefs forced a Baltimore three-and-out on its first possession, the Ravens had an opportunity to answer, get off the field, and keep the Chiefs from gaining an all-important pole position. This was the breaking point, the moment the game would likely tilt in their favor for most of the ensuing three hours or unleash a slowly building tidal wave of misery in another disappointing Ravens’ playoff run. Someone was about to experience a permanent momentum shift in the biggest pro football game ever to take place within the city limits of Baltimore. The reality, the sheer inevitability of Mahomes, struck when he completed a laser of a 13-yard pass to Travis Kelce on fourth and two to extend the possession. It was the first sign Mahomes wouldn’t let the Chiefs get embarrassed. The defending Super Bowl champions came to win, and the No. 1 contender to their title belt foolishly overlooked this possibility. 4th and 2, dial it up to @TKelce. 📺: #KCvsBAL on CBS📱: Stream on #NFLPlus pic.twitter.com/IIZbdmhqNS

After this kind of completion — where it was clear Mahomes arrived in a zone — you could almost sense a coming back-shoulder touchdown throw to Kelce with all-worldly Baltimore safety Kyle Hamilton in coverage. What symbolism, what a statement. And uh-oh, Baltimore. OH MY GOODNESS TRAVIS KELCE pic.twitter.com/b8W7hs0ih4 — Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 28, 2024

One would’ve thought the seemingly unflappable Ravens wouldn’t let this snowball. A 7-0 deficit … at home? That’s not insurmountable. It shouldn’t matter who the quarterback is, right? Wrong. After Mahomes and Kelce caught Baltimore off guard, the Ravens flat-out folded. They scored just 10 points the rest of the game. For whatever reason, offensive coordinator Todd Monken opened the floodgates to continuous Lamar Jackson pressure from the Chiefs’ defense rather than lean on the NFL’s top rushing offense. It predictably resulted in just three third-down conversions and a paltry 5.9 yards per play. While the Ravens were not short on chunk plays, you didn’t even need a full hand of fingers to count the number of possessions where they actually stressed the Chiefs’ stifling defense otherwise. Baltimore never had the juice, adding an air of helplessness to heartbreaking scenes like this: Odell comforting Lamar 💜#NFLPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/kVyhHOwstP — NFL (@NFL) January 28, 2024

The Ravens fumbled in their own territory. They fumbled when crossing the goal line. They committed silly penalties at the worst possible times, losing their composure when any hint of self-assurance might have been the difference in a one-score battle. They fumbled practically every opportunity they had to beat an inferior team with a superior quarterback. And while they gradually combusted into a dull, uninspiring, and colorless flame, the finest quarterback in football history was the coolest customer. In arguably the toughest test of his already legendary career, Mahomes was perfect. He completed 13 of his first 14 passes. He kept the Ravens’ ferocious pass rush at bay by spamming low-risk but efficient short passes out to Kelce and the least-talented skill group he’s seen since becoming a starter in 2017. In a game manager performance where he didn’t eclipse 250 yards passing, Mahomes was the composed maestro, the man who wouldn’t dare give the other team an inch, let alone make any backbreaking mistake to capitalize on and flip the result on its head. In this performance, Mahomes somehow took another step as a bona fide future First-Ballot Hall of Famer. This was him learning what it means to play within himself and steal away a road game to earn a fourth Super Bowl trip in six seasons. Sometimes, all this silly football hoopla amounts to is staying composed while letting the other team step on an unfathomable supply of rakes in defeat. It’s just that simple. Once Mahomes got even the slightest advantage, he helped keep the Ravens in a vicious chokehold they never had a chance of escaping from. Patrick Mahomes completed a season-high +8.0% of his passes over expected in the AFC Championship, including 26 of 28 passes under 10 air yards. Mahomes excelled on third down, completing 9 of 13 passes for 100 yards (7 first downs). Powered by @awscloud pic.twitter.com/XxpoZxwA8y — Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 28, 2024

While their response and game plan sometimes left things to be desired, the Ravens didn’t really do anything wrong on Sunday. Play against any other team, and we’re probably talking about how Jackson and friends match up with the San Francisco 49ers in Sin City in two weeks. Play against any other team, and we’re probably putting the Ravens in some “greatest team of all time” conversations. They were, indeed, that good this year. But this is what happens when you face the haunting specter of Patrick Mahomes in late January. Without hesitation, he turns every seeming fact into a fantasy before driving a dagger into your season.

Latest articles

Packers Add Andre Dillard to Roster; Chiefs Discussing Signing Tackle

The Titans terminated their contract with Andre Dillard after one season, releasing the former...

The Lions Reveal Their Fresh, New Uniforms

The Detroit Lions officially unveiled their new uniforms for the 2024 season on Thursday.  New...

49ers, Corley, Commanders, Bears, Alt Giants, Eagles, Seahawks, Steelers, Vikings, Lions – NFL Teams

No Brandon Aiyuk trade attempt has surfaced yet, setting this situation apart from the...

Teams Inquiring About Giants’ No. 6 Pick; Team Asserts Confidence in Daniel Jones

This draft could have a significant impact on the future of the Giants, particularly...

More like this

49ers, Corley, Commanders, Bears, Alt Giants, Eagles, Seahawks, Steelers, Vikings, Lions – NFL Teams

No Brandon Aiyuk trade attempt has surfaced yet, setting this situation apart from the...

Five NFL Players Reinstated After Gambling Bans Lifted

Last year saw several teams affected by gambling suspensions, with even some depth players...

Commanders Expected to Hold on to No. 2 Overall Pick, Unlikely to Trade Down

As Jayden Daniels-Washington buzz persists, the Commanders have not been...