The Kansas City Chiefs host the Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium this Sunday. The Ravens will present a challenge the Chiefs really haven’t yet faced on the way to their 10-2 record: a defense that is strong across the board.
So it’s not surprising that during Wednesday’s media sessions with head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, many of the questions they were asked — and the answers they gave — focused more on the upcoming opponent than usual. Here are some of the key takeaways from Wednesday’s media sessions:
Reid and Mahomes have a lot of respect for the Ravens defense.
The Ravens defense is led by defensive coordinator Wink Martindale — no, not the TV game-show host — who was the Denver Broncos offensive coordinator in 2010, and served six years as the Ravens linebackers coach before being named defensive coordinator this season. He’s popular among the defensive players — and is a fascinating character, too.
“They do a lot of things,” Reid said. “They have been doing that system for a long time, so they are good at it. They are smart players. They added [defensive back] Eric Weddle into the mix, [whom] we [have] seen for a number of years when he was in San Diego. He’s a smart player, and he’s helped in that area. They all play extremely hard. They have a wide variety of pressures they can throw at you. They’re strong up front. They are a deserving number one defense.”
Mahomes said the Ravens defense is unique.
“Yeah, they have their own scheme,” he explained. “First off, it’s different than most teams — if not all teams — in the league. Then they also have the players that are talented [enough] — as well as smart enough — to run it. It does present a different challenge that you don’t see every single week, but at the same time you’re ready for challenges like that.”
Mahomes also said that he’s sure the Ravens — like most defenses the Chiefs have faced this year — will do their best to fool or confuse him.
“Every week we get a different coverage or a different unscouted look that defenses don’t usually run,” he said. “I know teams will try to throw whatever they think is the best to stop what we’re doing on the offensive side of the ball. Our job is to adjust — either on the sideline or on the field — and go out there and execute whatever way we can.”
While making those kinds of adjustments on the field would be a challenge for any quarterback, when Reid was asked about the thing that has surprised him the most in Mahomes’ development as a first-year starter, his ability to adjust to blitzes would be at the top of the list.
“He will have a nice test this week with what they give him,” said Reid. “That is one of the tougher things to do with all the different protections you have. Calculating in that split second, diagnosing it, then making things happen.”
Just the same, Reid said that the Chiefs are still going to do Chiefs things against the Ravens defense.
“I don’t think it changes what you do,” he said. “You have to be efficient with what you do when you have the opportunity with the ball. That is always our challenge, though. You have to take care of business when you have the opportunities.”
“They’re going to come with the physicality,” warned Mahomes. “And they’re coming to get in the playoffs. It’s going to have that playoff atmosphere, and I’m excited to be in Arrowhead and get to play against a good defense like this.”
Both Reid and Mahomes also expressed a lot of respect for the Ravens offense — especially Lamar Jackson, who will likely have his fourth start against the Chiefs on Sunday.
The Ravens offense is led by Marty Mornhinweg, whom Andy Reid knows very well. Mornhinweg served Reid as a senior assistant, assistant head coach and offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2003 to 2012. He’s in his third season as the Ravens OC.
“First of all, Marty does a great job with that offense,” said Reid. “Very creative. You know what they have done, because [when] Joe Flacco [was] hurt, then Lamar Jackson [had] an opportunity to play. They are kind of doing the same thing they were doing when they were rotating the two of them; they are just doing more of it. You don’t slight [Jackson] — don’t slight him as a thrower at all. I made that statement to you at the Combine: Give him a shot at quarterback. He is pretty good at that. I will stand by that. He is a unique player.”
Jackson — drafted out of Louisville with the 32nd pick of the NFL draft last spring — became the starter when longtime Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was injured in the Week 9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“He’s as fast as a wide receiver, can run like a running back and can throw like a quarterback,” Reid said of Jackson. “You have to make sure you cover those areas. That’s hard to replicate out at practice, but you do the best you can and go with it. He’s unique. He was the best player in college football. and is doing a great job right now in the National Football League.”
The loss to the Steelers was the Ravens’ third in a row. But since Jackson has become the starter, the Ravens have won three straight against the Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders and Atlanta Falcons.
“I saw him out at a camp two offseasons ago,” Mahomes said of Jackson. “He can sling the ball. He can throw it. He has a cannon for an arm. They played the Raiders last week, so I got to watch him play them, and he’s making a ton of plays over there. There rallying behind him as they’ve won these last few games, and I expect him to come out and give the best effort to play against us.”
Other notes from the Wednesday media sessions
Reid said that “everybody” would be on the practice field Wednesday, and when asked about Eric Berry, gave an unsurprising answer: “Yeah, he will get out there and move around. He is literally day-to-day. He will be in there running around, we will see how he does. No one knows better than the player on how they feel. When you have a guy like that that loves to play, you don’t worry about it. You go off of what he is saying and what the docs, obviously, will say.”
Mahomes — who led the Chiefs in rushing against the Raiders on Sunday — was asked if he likes getting yards on the ground: “I don’t necessarily like running. I’m not too fast, but I like scrambling around extending plays. I thought the offensive line was blocking really well and they were putting a lot of guys in coverage, so I just kept extending the play and letting those guys work and get open. Guys were making plays out there when I did.”
Mahomes was asked if the cold conditions expected at Arrowhead on Sunday will have an effect on him: “I don’t think it changes at all. Coach Reid has us outside like every single day, so I’ve been prepared. It’s almost a change when we go to these warm weather environments, because we don’t practice in it. It’s awesome to be back in Arrowhead. Hopefully we can stay here for even more than these three games. Our job is to go out there and use that home field advantage to our advantage. and go out there and win these games.”