There’s a heavyweight battle of AFC powers in Baltimore on Monday night.
One team has won 11 consecutive games dating back to last season, including three postseason contests. The other is riding a 14-game regular-season winning streak.
One club is under the command of the 2018 MVP and Super Bowl LIV MVP. The other is under the command of the reigning NFL MVP.
Patrick Mahomes led the NFL in touchdown passes in ’18 in his first full season as the starting quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs. Lamar Jackson threw a league-high 36 touchdown passes in his first full campaign as the starting signal-caller for the Baltimore Ravens.
This Monday evening, the battle between these two electrifying players will be much discussed. But the real chess match will take place on the sidelines between two men who know each other quite well and have a history of working together.
John Harbaugh is in the midst of his 13th season as the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Before that, he spent 10 years in the City of Brotherly Love as an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles. Those last nine seasons were under the command of Andy Reid (the first under Ray Rhodes in 1998). Harbaugh was Reid’s special teams coordinator for eight years (via Clifton Brown of BaltimoreRavens.com) and then took over the secondary in 2007.
This will mark the sixth time that these two men will square off as head coaches against each other. The first came in Harbaugh’s first season in Baltimore when Reid’s Eagles were flattened, 36-7, in 2008.
And it’s worth noting that both teams came within a win in their respective conference championship games that year of squaring off in Super Bowl LIII. But the Ravens fell at Pittsburgh and the Eagles were taken down at Arizona. Both Baltimore and Philadelphia were No. 6 seeds in the playoffs that year.
As for the last four meetings between the two sideline leaders, it’s been all Reid ever since. The Eagles knocked off the Ravens, 24-23, at Philadelphia in 2012. Kansas City went to Baltimore in 2015 and came away with a lopsided 34-14 victory.
And in both 2018 and ’19, the Chiefs hosted Harbaugh’s team and handed it a tough 27-24 overtime loss that first year and a 33-28 setback in Week 3 this past season. Of course, both of those clashes between Mahomes and Jackson were at Arrowhead Stadium. This prime time affair takes place in Baltimore, for what that it truly worth these days.
While it sounds somewhat cliché, the defenses will have to step up in this game. In 2018, the Kansas City Chiefs scored 565 points – the third-highest single-season total in NFL history. This past season, the Ravens led the NFL with 531 points. It’s also worth noting that neither of those teams managed to get to the Super Bowl.
The Chiefs have turned things around on the defensive side of the ball after struggling the first 10 games of 2019 and Steve Spagnuolo’s unit has been pivotal to Kanas City’s current winning streak. This offseason, the Ravens bolstered their defensive front after that group was pushed around in the playoffs by Derrick Henry and the Titans. Baltimore traded for Calais Campbell and added veteran defensive end Derek Wolfe via free agency.
It’s a small sample size but the Ravens have already totaled six sacks and an NFL-best five takeaways this year. The Chiefs also have a half-dozen QB traps albeit only a pair of interceptions and no fumble recoveries. But trying to come up with miscues from the opposition will be easier said than done.
A year ago, both Kansas City and Baltimore turned over the ball just 15 times in 16 regular-season outings. This year, Jackson has not thrown an interception and fullback Patrick Ricard has the team’s lone turnover. Reid’s team is clean after two games when it comes to giving up the football.
The Chiefs are the defending Super Bowl champions for a reason. And Harbaugh and the Ravens will have their hands full with a team that has now learned how to win ugly and not panic when falling behind. And don’t dismiss the fact that Reid has gotten the best of his former assistant in each of their last four meetings.