The Ravens stared directly into their own mortality at home playoff matchup in Baltimore, entering the second half in a 10-10 stalemate against the Houston Texans.

Following a reportedly spirited halftime discussion by Lamar Jackson, the Ravens went on to score 24 unanswered points in a 34-10 victory over the Texans in the AFC Divisional Round. It was none other than Jackson that rushed for two touchdowns and passed for a third in the second half to put Houston to sleep. 

Kansas City and Buffalo’s game was much sloppier on Sunday. 

It took a stalled drive by Buffalo and Kansas City respectively, a poor throw by Josh Allen that was nearly intercepted and a missed field goal by Bills kicker Tyler Bass for the Chiefs to finally claim a 27-24 win.

Prior to the missed field goal and the errant throw by Allen, the Bills opted for a direct snap to Damar Hamlin on fourth down in their own territory. It was a questionable decision. Kansas City had an opportunity to put the game away – Mecole Hardman fumbled the ball out of the end zone for a touchback. 

Here are three takeaways from Baltimore’s 34-10 victory over Houston and Kansas City’s 27-24 win against Buffalo, along with thoughts about the upcoming Baltimore-Kansas City matchup.

Baltimore bully ball

Baltimore’s defense stood tall on the opposite end, holding C.J. Stroud to 175 passing yards (19-for-33) with Houston being held to a paltry 38 rushing yards on 14 carries with no offensive touchdowns. The Texans managed a total of 213 yards and had possession of the ball for 22:25 minutes to the Ravens’ 37:35. 

While the NFL-leading Ravens defense netted zero sacks on Saturday night and no turnovers, along with missing standout Marlon Humphrey at cornerback, Baltimore stifled Houston at the point of attack with all hands on-deck. Ronald Darby more than stepped with two pass deflections.

Roquan Smith’s ability to crash into offensive linemen and dislodge them from blocks netted him a combined seven tackles and two tackles for loss in the game. Malik Harrison set the edge nicely and forced a fumble. Justin Madubuike had a TFL and a quarterback hit. Kyle Van Noy and Jadeveon Clowney are bringing an added veteran presence to the forefront of the team’s defense.

Lamar Jackson continues to do Lamar Jackson things

Jackson went 16-for-22 on passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns, along with 11 rushing attempts for 100 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Four touchdowns. A 121.8 passer rating against Houston. 

There’s a screenshot floating around with Jackson looking back quizzically with a 10-10 tie at halftime.

https://x.com/koestreicher34/status/1748893272141877700?s=20

He’s no underdog. Winning is the expectation in Baltimore and he’s more than doing his part. Jackson is throwing the team over his shoulder and dashing to the finish line.

Kansas City continues to find ways to win, in spite of itself

The Chiefs are an enigmatic team. They continue to win even when all odds are against them because they’ve done it to themselves. Winning is the name of the game though. Also, as long as Patrick Mahomes gives you a 17-for-23 day with 215 yards and two touchdowns, both to Travis Kelce no less, they’ve got a chance to win. This is the most battle-tested team that remains in the playoffs outside of the 49ers. 

A lot can be said about Kansas City’s defense too. The unit held together and punished receivers throughout the night. It’s a very physical brand of football that will make one’s teeth grit and chatter in a dark, cold night. Holding the Bills to 24 points is more than good enough for a road playoff win – the first of Mahomes’ career. 

Initial thoughts on Baltimore-Kansas City

The Ravens are 1-3 against the Chiefs in the Jackson era. Jackson’s first two games against Mahomes’ Chiefs were close. Dec. 9, 2018’s game was a 27-24 overtime win for Kansas City. Jackson’s MVP season featured a 33-28 road loss for Baltimore on Sept. 22, 2019. With no fans in the stadium on a Monday Night Football game on Sept. 28, 2020, the Ravens were thoroughly beaten by a score of 34-20. The Ravens followed back with a 36-35 win over Kansas City the following season on Sept. 19, 2021.

This matchup features two totally different teams. The defending champion Chiefs no longer have Eric Bienemy at offensive coordinator with former Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy returning to fill his old role. Baltimore has since replaced defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale and offensive coordinator Greg Roman with Mike Macdonald and Todd Monken respectively. 

There’s also no Tyreek Hill, who has since been traded to Miami.  Isiah Pacheco, Marques Valdez-Scantling, Justin Watson and Kadarius Toney are all new to the battle. Middle linebacker extraordinaire Smith never has been part of rivalry, along with Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham and Isaiah Likely on the Baltimore end. 

One thing that has stayed the same is Andy Reid vs. John Harbaugh – the mentor taking on his mentee. There’s also the oft-discussed Mahomes-Jackson battle, the parallels of Kelce and potentially Mark Andrews, along with the hopes and dreams of both cities riding on one ride to Las Vegas.

Kyle Andrews
Kyle Andrews

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.

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