The AFC Championship Game held in Baltimore marked a significant moment for the Ravens, hosting the event for the first time in 53 years. The anticipation was high, with a boisterous home crowd expecting the AFC’s top-seeded team to assert its dominance and solidify Lamar Jackson’s legacy.
However, the presence of Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes on the opposing side, the Kansas City Chiefs, proved to be a formidable challenge. Despite the Ravens enjoying home-field advantage, their playoff inexperience became evident in a 17-10 loss at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.
Baltimore struggled, scoring a season-low 10 points and committing a season-high three turnovers, while the Chiefs, with no turnovers, held their ground in the second half.
In the clash of experience versus relative novelty in conference championship games, the Ravens resembled a team that hadn’t played in such a high-stakes matchup for 11 years, while the Chiefs exhibited the composure of a team making its sixth consecutive appearance.
Reflecting on the game, Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen acknowledged the Chiefs’ ability to make critical plays when needed, contrasting it with their own failure to execute. He emphasized the significance of capitalizing on every play in the playoffs, a standard the Ravens fell short of.
The Chiefs showcased championship-caliber plays throughout the game. Patrick Mahomes connected with Travis Kelce for a touchdown on the opening drive, demonstrating precision and efficiency.
The Ravens, after responding with a touchdown, faced adversity as the Chiefs orchestrated a 16-play drive culminating in an Isiah Pacheco touchdown, showcasing the hallmark of teams accustomed to deep postseason runs.
Despite the Ravens attempting a comeback, their efforts were marred by mistakes, including three turnovers, two of which occurred in the red zone during the fourth quarter. The Ravens’ offensive struggles were evident, with four consecutive punts (excluding the end of the half) and a mere 69 yards gained.
Baltimore deviated from its identity, with only six carries from running backs and a total of 81 rushing yards. Lamar Jackson explained their strategy shift, stating they were focused on scoring points and attempting to make something happen despite the deficit.
In an uncharacteristic move, Jackson threw a pass in triple coverage in the fourth quarter. The Ravens’ offense faced setbacks, including a fumble by Zay Flowers at the 1-yard line and personal foul penalties, contributing to a challenging game for the home team.
The discrepancy in personal foul infractions highlighted the difference in experience, with the Ravens committing five penalties for 95 yards compared to the Chiefs’ three penalties for 30 yards. Baltimore appeared as a team new to the NFL’s final four, while Kansas City’s seasoned approach became evident throughout the 60 minutes of play.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid commended his team’s mental fortitude and ability to “put the hammer down” when needed. Looking ahead, he expressed enthusiasm about advancing to the next game and emphasized the desire for the season to continue.