Back in 1996, in the run-up to his first fight with Evander Holyfield, a reporter asked Mike Tyson whether he was concerned with Holyfield’s game plan to win.
“Everybody has a plan,” Tyson said, “until they get punched in the mouth.”
The Baltimore Ravens certainly had a plan ahead of Monday’s highly anticipated matchup against reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City. Probably a lot of them.
Then, Patrick Mahomes punched them in the mouth … or dropped a 49-yard, off-his-back-foot dime for a touchdown.
This is Mahomes’ league until it isn’t, and based on the Chiefs’ 34-20 victory in Baltimore, that isn’t changing anytime soon. Mahomes is something out of a comic book running a video game offense that Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy dream up each week.
“They don’t give that guy half a billion dollars for no reason,” Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell said of Mahomes’ offseason contract extension that already seems like a bargain. “He’s an incredible talent. He just made play after play.”
Mahomes threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 26 yards and another score. He confused and infuriated the Ravens defense, which tried to blitz him relentlessly only to get burned by the Chiefs’ execution.
“The guys sped up their routes and the o-line did a great job protecting me,” Mahomes said on ESPN afterward.
If not for some oddly conservative third-quarter play-calling, this wouldn’t have been as close as it was — and it really never felt all that close.
The game was hyped as the first meeting between former MVPs (Mahomes won his in 2018) under the age of 25. But Jackson (97 yards passing) couldn’t match Mahomes. He was neither as good nor had the weapons around him.
Mahomes threw touchdown passes to two receivers (Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman), a fullback (Anthony Sherman) and an offensive lineman (Eric Fisher). Meanwhile, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins combined for 13 receptions, among the eight Chiefs who caught at least one pass.
Mahomes delivered off-balance bombs, on-the-run darts and underhand pitches en route to your basic, average 31-for-42 night.
Mostly, there was no need for heroics or a fourth-quarter comeback. If there is one criticism of the Mahomes Chiefs it’s that they can start slow, requiring a big finish. Only once has it really cost them (in a AFC championship game loss to New England following the 2018 season).
If they are going to come out and start fast, well, good luck to the rest of the league.
This was just Week 3 and assures absolutely nothing, other than the inside track on home-field advantage come the playoffs.
“We understood this was a big game for later on in the season,” Mahomes said.
Yet, it’s still early. The problem for Baltimore, or maybe any teams out there, is the sinking realization that maybe they can’t beat these guys. Mahomes has a gear that no one else has, and he has a head coach and an offensive coordinator looking to rev up into it.
“They are better,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “They are a better football team right now.”
What do you do when the defense is getting just as strong as the offense? What do you do when Mahomes is awash in options? Just when the opposition covers all the receivers, he hits an eligible offensive tackle, a play call that had Mahomes smiling with joy in the pre-snap huddle.
“I was very excited, I had to remind him to go and report,” Mahomes said of Fisher.
It was a playground game for Mahomes because every game feels like a playground game for Mahomes right now. When that vaunted, vicious Baltimore defense pins its ears back and comes after you, and all you do is burn them over and over and over, how can you think any other way?
“I know who we are and what we are capable of, but he was able to do some incredible things against us,” Campbell said.
New England arrives next week, but Bill Belichick hasn’t stopped Mahomes for 60 minutes yet. Buffalo and Tampa are also on the slate later in the season. But this is next-level stuff right now in Kansas City. And this is an offense that relies on timing and execution, that is still just ramping up from a preseason with no games and limited practice.
No one should reasonably expect the Chiefs to win them all, but it’ll be a big upset if they actually lose one.
That’s how good these guys are. That’s how incredible their quarterback is. The Ravens are their biggest AFC rival, Lamar Jackson is the reigning MVP, and they all got toyed with on Monday.
It’s time for a new plan because Mahomes and the Chiefs aren’t going to stop punching people in the mouth anytime soon.
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