With the rain falling in the AFC Championship Game in Baltimore on Sunday, the Ravens fell behind early in their game against the Chiefs and the lead was insurmountable.
Baltimore lost 17-10 and were outgained on the ground 89-81 and Patrick Mahomes took care of the ball with zero turnovers on a 30-for-39 passing line with 241 yards and a touchdown. Travis Kelce crushed the Ravens with a game-high 11 receptions, 116 yards and a touchdown. Kansas City sacked Lamar Jackson four times with Charles Omenihu notching a strip sack.
Here are five takeaways from Baltimore’s 17-10 loss in the AFC Championship Game.
Lamar Jackson continues to struggle in the playoffs
A stat line of 20-for-37 on passes for 272 yards, a touchdown and an interception isn’t particularly awful. Jackson even led the team with eight carries for 54 rushing yards. It wasn’t enough for the victory. There were open running lanes to be had – he opted to hold onto the ball to push it downfield. It resulted in a fumble and a poorly-timed fourth quarter interception.
Baltimore gave Jackson the weapons – signing Odell Beckham and Nelson Agholor during the offseason, along with drafting Zay Flowers and bringing back Rashod Bateman, Tylan Wallace, Devin Duvernay, Isaiah Likely and Mark Andrews. Being an elite quarterback comes with the criticism when one doesn’t win the big game. Jackson deserves the credit for getting Baltimore to this point and he mostly will win the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player Award next weekend, but he also deserves the critique for his play in the playoffs.
Jackson now has a passer rating of 75.7 with 1,324 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions in six games over the course of his playoff career. Heading into Year 7 in 2024 and Beckham’’s contract running out, plus a potential revamp of the offensive line, there’s no guarantee that Baltimore will be back at this point next season.
Baltimore’s offensive line has questions and has all season
Ronnie Stanley has been banged up throughout the year, missing four starts during the 2023 regular season. Morgan Moses missed three regular season games, Kevin Zeitler missed two games and Tyler Linderbaum missed two games. That’s a total of 11 games missed by Baltimore’s offensive line.
Not only is Baltimore banged up along the offensive line, the team also has some decisions to make in the starting lineup next season. Moses will be 33 next season and carries a $6.96 million cap hit – he’ll most likely be returning in the final year of his deal. Zeitler will be 34 next year and there are questions about the 11-year veteran’s return for another season. His contract is up, but could be restructured to a $4.268 million cap hit in 2024. Simpson is a free agent.
Then, there’s Stanley. Stanley signed a 5-year, $98.75 million contract prior to the 2020 season. He’s suffered through multiple ankle injuries, a shoulder, hip and knee injury, plus a concussion during the 2019 season. Baltimore has a potential out in his contract ahead of the 2024 season, but it would include $17,836,500 in dead cap room. Chances are that Baltimore will have to at least consider finding his replacement in the draft with an opportunity to potentially move Stanley to a different position on the line – if possible. Even then, a $26,168,250 cap hit for a right tackle or left guard is less than ideal.
The Ravens fell victim to mistakes
There’s an understanding that the game would be tightly called with Shawn Smith at the helm as the lead official. Baltimore apparently didn’t get the memo. The Ravens had eight penalties for 95 yards, while Kansas City had three for 30. One may find it easy to look in the direction of the referees, but that would take the blame from Baltimore’s off-kilter performance. Per ESPN Stats Info, Baltimore’s 95 penalty yards are the most in 22 playoff games under John Harbaugh and the third most in a game this season.
The most egregious of it all was Flowers’ taunting penalty in the third quarter with time waning from the game and trailing just 17-7. Jackson’s pass from Baltimore’s own 36-yard line to the Chiefs 10 was backed up, resulting in Baltimore moving to Kansas City’s 36. Not too long after, Flowers fumbled the ball at the goal line – erasing Baltimore’s chance to even the score.
One can’t blame the referees or complain about the fix being in for Taylor Swift’s boyfriend. The Ravens deserved to lose and the Chiefs were the better team. The excuses go out of the window during playoff time and Baltimore had too many to count.
Todd Monken forgot about the run
16 rushes. That’s it from Todd Monken’s offense. He abandoned the run early and stepped away from Gus Edwards, who had 6.67 yards per carry. Flowers had two attempts for four yards and Justice Hill had three attempts for three yards. Jackson’s designed runs were non-existent.
Somehow, somewhere, Baltimore’s new offensive coordinator decided to bring back the Greg Roman special. What’s even more confusing is that Jackson at least had 20 carries for 143 rushing yards in the team’s Jan. 11, 2020 28-12 loss to the Tennessee Titans. However, Baltimore’s running backs touched the ball a grand total of nine times in the game on carries. The Ravens had eight rushing attempts from their running backs on Sunday.
Odell Beckham Jr. deserves to be back
For all of the griping about Beckham’s contract of 1-year, $15 million with a dead cap value of $11.068 million, he’s been a valuable asset as a leader. 35 receptions for 565 yards and three touchdowns isn’t much to sneeze at coming off of a year off and an ACL injury. He had a career-high 16.1 yards per reception as Baltimore’s big offseason signing. Beckham has also stepped up in the locker room, wrapping his arm around Flowers – giving him a mentor in the receivers room.
Kyle J. Andrews is a 2018 University of Baltimore and Mount Saint Joseph High School graduate, along with former sports reporter for the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa., the Baltimore Sun Media Group, 105.7 The Fan, Baltimore Beatdown, and Fox Sports 1340 AM. He has covered the Orioles, Ravens, high school sports in the Baltimore area and Central Pennsylvania, minor league baseball, Penn State and Maryland athletics and more.