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Chiefs’ defenders know 11-man effort needed to stop Lamar Jackson

On Friday, two of Kansas City’s edge rushers weighed in on defeating this season’s presumptive MVP.

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Kansas City Chiefs v Buffalo Bills Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

When the Kansas City Chiefs travel to Maryland to face the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game on Sunday, their defense has no illusion about the task in front of them.

After practice on Friday, defensive ends George Karlaftis and Mike Danna broke down what they see in their upcoming opponent. As always against the Ravens, the conversation starts with quarterback Lamar Jackson — arguably the league’s best combination runner and passer and the front runner to be named league MVP.

“He can do it all,” Karlaftis noted. “He’s one of those MVP candidates this year, so we have a ton of respect for him. He can make all the throws. Obviously, his running ability is off the charts. So, we’re going to have our hands full. It’s a task we’ve been preparing for all week, and I think we’re going to be ready for him.”

Danna has faced Jackson twice as a professional, and he knows what defending against him will require.

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Kansas City Chiefs v Buffalo Bills Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

“It’s going to take all 11 of us,” the fourth-year pro predicted. “We’ve got to pursue relentlessly to get him down. He’s an excellent athlete, an excellent quarterback, and we’ve got to do our job. We’ve got to do our one-eleventh. Getting him down is not easy, and it’s going to take all 11 of us to pursue to the ball, contain him, and keep him in the pocket.”

Keeping Jackson in the pocket has long been a popular strategy for opposing defenses, but a stacked Ravens offense — behind a top offensive line — may make that thinking obsolete.

“They don’t really have any holes on offense, if any,” Karlaftis observed. “They’ve got a great running back, great quarterback, great O-line, great receivers — that’s why they’re in the position they’re in right now. We’re going to have our hands full, but we’ll be up for the task.”

Danna acknowledges that Jackson is underrated as a passer, making plays on the quarterback doubly difficult.

“It’s definitely tough getting a guy down like him,” Danna remarked. “He’s elusive, he’s mobile, he can use his legs to extend plays, and he’s still got a cannon of an arm, which everyone is still pretty asleep on. I don’t know why. It’s hard coming across sacks like that because guys like that always can make plays. You just do your job. Everybody rush as a unit — rush as four — and you can fall into sacks, and things can happen.”

While Karlaftis, now in his second season, has never faced the Ravens, Danna knows to expect a long and grueling game.

“They’re always a four-quarter battle,” he recalled of matchups between the teams. “It’s a war. It comes down to the wire every single time. Especially going against an opposing quarterback like Lamar — an MVP candidate this year — he’s a great player. These games come to the wire.

“It’s football being played great on both sides of the ball. It’s going to take all 11 of us to do our jobs [and] all three phases to do our jobs, and we’ll see what happens.”

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

While Sunday will be his first time to face Jackson, this week’s preparation has convinced Karlaftis that finding a weakness in the Ravens is fruitless. The young pass rusher is more focused on what he can directly control.

“I don’t necessarily think you look for holes,” said Karlaftis. “You just think, ‘we’re just going to execute and trust our coaching, execute our responsibilities, and let the best man win.’”

Knowing what the Chiefs defense has accomplished this year, Danna expects Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to have the best plan possible to stop Jackson.

“In Spags, we trust,” he declared. “Just 11 guys relentless — when we send pressure, we’ve got blitzers, we’ve got edge rushers, and we’ve got contain dudes. We’ve got dudes that’s just sticking to their assignments. That’s what we work on at practice. Following the little details and things like that — when you’ve got 11 dudes relentlessly playing, it’s hard to beat a team like that.”

Though the Chiefs are the defending Super Bowl Champions, Danna put into perspective how focused he and his teammates are to face Baltimore.

“This game is the most important game of every single one of our careers,” he stated. “This is the most important one. We’ve got to do our job. It’s exciting to see the Ravens and the Chiefs for the AFC Championship — these two heavyweight quarterbacks going at it [and] two great defenses. It’s going to be an exceptional game. That’s what we want to see.”

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