The Chiefs had a possession early in the third quarter when Patrick Mahomes didn’t attempt a pass. The Chiefs didn’t score.
To heck with that strategy.
Next time, they came out slinging. The end result was another Mahomes touchdown pass and the Chiefs were on their way to a 33-28 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
Victory wasn’t assured until the final minute, and when it was, the clinching play came on another Mahomes pass.
“Patrick had another big day,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.
Again. The Chiefs outlasted a team that likely will join them in the playoffs this season and many players pitched in. But the primary focus on Sunday was the matchup between young gun quarterbacks, Mahomes and the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson.
Jackson had his moments. But Mahomes captured the day.
He guided a 23-point answer to the Ravens’ opening score with two of his three touchdown passes and the ones that required the most touch: 18 yards in the corner to Demarcus Robinson and 83 yards over the top to Mecole Hardman.
For the game, Mahomes completed 27 of 37 for 374 yards. His passer rating of 132.0 was the third best of his 20 NFL regular-season starts, behind his number at Jacksonville in the opener and just ahead of his performance last week in Oakland. Three of four top four statistical games in his young career have come in the team’s 3-0 start.
Sunday marked Mahomes’ 14th straight game with at last two touchdown passes. Peyton Manning once accomplished that in a record 15 consecutive games.
But on their way to a breezy triumph, the Chiefs lost contain of Jackson, whose elusiveness more than once left a Chiefs tackler in an awkward position.
Baltimore picked up enough stops in the second half to chip away. Jackson finished the game with 267 passing yards and 46 rushing and the Ravens closed to five points with 2:01 remaining.
It had been a seemingly odd play-calling game for John Harbaugh and the Ravens. They often play aggressively, but several calls went against the books. Four times they kept the punter on the sideine on fourth down, twice in their own territory. They collected three first downs on those tries, but the one not converted ended in the Mahomes-Robinson scoring connection.
Also, Baltimore scored four touchdowns, with running back Mark Ingram getting three, and attempted one extra point. That included taking one point off the scoreboard after the first touchdown when a Chiefs penalty brought the ball to the 1. The Chiefs stuffed Jackson and could claim a small victory.
Between the fourth downs and the two-point conversations, the Chiefs got stops on the majority of plays, and that was a product of attitude as much as ability, said linebacker Anthony Hitchens.
“You can take that either way,” Hitchens said. “I kind of take that as if they’re disrespecting us. And then sometimes they’re just aggressive ... We were prepared for it. Those plays were critical.”
From a Ravens perspective, grabbing all the opportunity and points you can is probably the smart play against a Chiefs offense that was the NFL’s most productive last year and isn’t slowing down in 2019.
“Our job is to finish and keep our defense on the sideline as much as we can,” Jackson said. “We didn’t do that today.”
The real victory had to wait until the final possession. The Chiefs took possession but couldn’t run out the clock without a first down. Two plays netted 1 yard. On third-and-9, football wisdom dictates another run and more time to drain.
But Mahomes made the Chiefs look wise in another way. He took the shotgun snap, rolling right, and running back Darrel Williams slid off the linebacker. Mahomes hit him in stride for a 16-yard gain that ended the game.
After the game, Mahomes and Reid described the moment as one the Chiefs had prepared for throughout Mahomes’ career, and reviewed as recently as Saturday night.
The play worked beautifully and reinforced the idea that when Mahomes is passing, good things often happen.