The Kansas City Chiefs will face a familiar foe in Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson on Sunday Night Football — but given the track record, that might more properly be said the other way around. Jackson has yet to figure out his foe when playing the Chiefs during his young and incredibly successful career, going 0-3 in an otherwise 30-5 regular-season record.
Still, the Chiefs will not take Jackson lightly.
“Lamar, obviously, is a huge threat,” said Chiefs head coach Andy Reid in his initial press conference on Monday. “He can throw it, he can run it, and he’s smart. All those things go [into it], and he likes to play the game. You got to prepare yourself the right way there.”
There may be no better definition of a dual-threat quarterback in today’s version of the NFL than Jackson, who is such a gifted runner that his ability as a passer is oftentimes overlooked.
Now that Jackson is in year four, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes sees a player who is maturing (and getting better) as the seasons tick along.
“You can tell he has a better understanding of the offense — just like I have,” said Mahomes. “When you first get out there, I remember me in my first year [and] him in his first year, you kind of have to rely on your playmaking ability. But as you continue to involve and learn as a passer, you learn different things in this league and you see different defenses, you understand little tricks of the trade you can do to go out there and have success, and you can see that with him. Obviously, when it comes down to it, he can make plays happen pretty much every game.”
Mahomes won the 2018 AP NFL MVP and Jackson took the award home in 2019, a stretch that created a debate when it came to who was the more talented quarterback.
When the league’s players voted Jackson No. 1 and Mahomes No. 4 in last year’s edition of NFL Network’s “Top 100,” Mahomes responded by counting to four after his fourth passing touchdown against the Ravens in last year’s Week 3 matchup.
That's 4️⃣ TD passes on the night for @PatrickMahomes.— NFL (@NFL) September 29, 2020
: #KCvsBAL on ESPN
: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/QjJ5lF3Rg2 pic.twitter.com/LiswiyF2S7
The Chiefs won 34-20, and Mahomes said after the game that he was counting the passing touchdowns. Right.
“When two good football teams play against each other, there’s always going to be a lot of hype and a lot of buildup to the game,” added Mahomes on Wednesday. “Seeing Lamar and all the success he’s had with that team, you know they’re two of the top teams in the AFC. And so, we’re going to have to battle — every year it seems like — or in the playoffs, or whenever it is. So obviously, there’s a lot of momentum coming throughout the week when you play teams like this.”
Despite his regular-season success, Jackson struggled during the 2018 and 2019 postseasons, which saw the Ravens eliminated by the Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans, respectively. Jackson finally broke through for his first playoff win against the Titans last season, when he threw for 179 yards and ran for another 136.
In that game, left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. was protecting his blindside.
“I loved his passion and love for the game,” said Brown. “He had a very raw approach, very raw emotion, when he’s out there. Similar to 15 (Mahomes) in that sense, just that dog mentality. No matter what’s being thrown at him, no matter how he gets hit, what happens, he’s always going to get up and keep swinging.”
In this game, Brown will be on the other side as he returns to Baltimore — another story on its own. When he isn’t protecting Mahomes on Sunday night, he will be rooting for the Chiefs defense, which knows it will have its hands full in containing Jackson.
“Gap integrity is one of the biggest things I saw on film,” said rookie linebacker Nick Bolton as he spoke about that effort. “[It’s an] electric offense that can do a whole bunch of different things with his hands on the ball. It’s going to be executing the gameplan, doing our job, doing our one-11, making sure we’re not trying to do too much — that type of stuff.”
Jackson and the Ravens are coming off a brutal Monday night overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, in which the quarterback fumbled on his team’s final possession — in front of the first fans to watch a game in the Raiders’ new stadium. He will try to right that wrong in his return home against the Chiefs.
“They’re well-coached and they’ve got good players, so it’s always a knock-down, drag-out fight there,” added Reid of the Ravens. “They’re tough. That’s the way they practice, that’s the way they go about their business, so, we’ve got to make sure we prepare ourselves right for it. Every play is an honest down when you play them.”