Chiefs defense exposed by Jackson, Ravens in 36-35 defeat
Sep 19, 2021, 10:38 PM | Updated: Sep 20, 2021, 3:33 pm
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — It was only fitting that the Baltimore Ravens would put away a comeback win over the Chiefs by running Lamar Jackson right up the middle when Kansas City needed a fourth-down stop to get the ball back.
The Chiefs knew it was coming; the Ravens had been doing it all game.
They still couldn’t stop it.
Nor could the Chiefs stop the run the previous week against the Browns, though some late-game magic from Patrick Mahomes managed to bail them out in Week 1. But when the Kansas City defense allowed Jackson to scamper for a clinching first down with about a minute left Sunday night, it prevented Mahomes from even getting another chance.
The result was a 36-35 loss that ended the Chiefs’ streak of 14 consecutive wins in the month of September.
“When guys are in position, you have to make the tackle,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We have to do a better job getting off blocks. … We knew they were a very good run team. Guys pushed through it and got us in a position to win the game.”
Ah, yes — the fumble that also kept the Chiefs from kicking a potential winning field goal.
While the Browns and Ravens have exposed the Chiefs’ inability to stop the run, and their failure to improve this past offseason in an area that also was a problem last year, the fumble by Clyde Edwards-Helaire following the 2-minute warning rests as much on Kansas City’s coaching staff as it does anyone else.
After the Chiefs took over at their own 25 with 3:14 left, Mahomes hit Byron Pringle over the middle for 23 yards. He hit Travis Kelce for 13 yards and again for 7 more, getting the ball to the Baltimore 32.
All of a sudden, Reid and Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy put the ball in the hands of a second-year pro that had struggled all game to find running room rather than keep it in the hands of arguably the NFL’s best player.
Edwards-Helaire was promptly stripped of the ball. The Ravens recovered the fumble. Jackson converted on fourth down.
“We got into field-goal range pretty quickly there,” Mahomes said, “and then we were pretty much trying to get down close, to let (Harrison) Butker kick the field goal. And dude made a good play. He was getting blocked and threw his hand out and hit it directly on the ball. We were executing; they made a play. You lose games when teams make plays like that.”
You also lose games when you allow an opponent to run for 251 yards and three touchdowns. Or go 4 for 4 in the red zone, 6 for 11 on third downs and convert their only fourth down. Or take the ball out of the hands of your best player.
“We will never point fingers and say it’s just one person’s loss. That is not how we roll at Kansas City,” Kelce said. “We’ll fix it in the four quarters of football. We’ll fix it.”
Kelce finished with seven catches for 109 yards and a touchdown, giving him 8,066 yards for his career. He joined Rob Gronkowski (8,613) and Jimmy Graham (8,350) as the only active tight ends with at least 8,000 yards receiving.
MISSING IN ACTION
The Chiefs moved star defensive tackle Chris Jones to defensive end in an effort to improve their pass rush, but on Sunday night he looked like — well, he looked like a defensive tackle trying to play defensive end. He had one tackle, no sacks and failed to put any pressure on Jackson even as the Ravens ran right at him.
POOR PASS RUSH
The return of defensive end Frank Clark from a hamstring injury didn’t do much to help Kansas City’s pass rush, either. Daniel Sorensen delivered the only sack on a safety blitz.
“When you miss over 10 tackles in a game, that’s cause for devastation for a defense,” Clark said. “You’ve got to make the tackles, especially when you’re going against a strong offense like the Ravens.”
Tyreek Hill was double and triple covered by the Ravens most of the night, freeing up others in the Kansas City passing game. Pringle had two catches for 63 yards and a score. Mecole Hardman had five catches for 55 yards. Backup tight ends Jordy Fortson and Blake Bell each caught a ball, as did backup running back Jerick McKinnon.
Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu had two interceptions, including a pick-six, in his return from the COVID-19 list. But he also was whistled for a couple of penalties, though one for illegal use of hands was questionable at best.
“We still have a lot of confidence in ourselves, so I don’t think anything has really happened. We just have to play better and make some plays,” he said. “We just need to get back at it and get our confidence back.”
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