The showdown between two of the league’s best teams led by two of the league’s best quarterbacks turned out to be yet another a showcase for Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
The reigning Super Bowl Champions beat the host Baltimore Ravens, 34-20, on Monday in a potential preview of the A.F.C. championship game in January. Led by Mahomes, the Chiefs dismantled the league’s best defense, moving the ball downfield almost at will. The Chiefs managed to shut down the Ravens for long stretches of the game, flustering Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and preventing Baltimore’s running game from dictating the pace of the game.
Under the new playoff format this season, only the top seeded team will earn a bye in the first round of the playoffs. The Chiefs would end up with the bye if they end the season with an identical record to the Ravens.
Mahomes has now beaten Jackson in all three of their head-to-head matchups dating back to 2018. In his young career as a starting quarterback, Jackson is now 0-3 against the Chiefs and 21-1 against every other team in the league during the regular season. It was the Ravens’ first regular-season loss in a year.
Mahomes, the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2018, and the M.V.P. in the Super Bowl in February, put on a dominant display, completing 31 of 42 passes for 385 yards and four passing scores, rushing for one touchdown, and throwing no interceptions. He threw at least four receptions to five different teammates and surpassed 10,000 career yards, becoming the fastest N.F.L. player to reach that total. The rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire kept the Ravens’ league-leading defense off kilter.
Mahomes threw deep touchdown passes to his speedy receivers, shoveled a 5-yard underhanded toss to fullback Anthony Sherman for another score and, just as the Ravens were mounting a comeback in the fourth quarter, threw another touchdown pass to Eric Fisher, an offensive tackle who lined up as an eligible receiver.
The score seemed to halt the Ravens’ momentum with eight minutes and 14 seconds remaining. Jackson tried to narrow the deficit again, but fell short. He ended up with a career-low 97 yards passing with just 15 completions and one touchdown pass. He led the Ravens with 83 yards rushing.
In the first half, the Chiefs full used their full complement of talent. Mahomes spread the ball around, doling out touches to Edwards-Helaire, and his trusted tight end, Travis Kelce. Mahomes threw two long touchdown passes to Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman, and ran for a score, putting Kansas City up, 27-10 with just less than three minutes left in the first half.
For much of the game, the Ravens looked flustered. Their only touchdown in the first half came on a 93-yard kickoff return. Several of Jackson’s passes were dropped, including a certain touchdown throw to the usually sure-handed tight end Mark Andrews to start the third quarter.
The Ravens took advantage of two Chiefs miscues, a fumble that led to a field goal, and a defensive stop on fourth down that gave them the ball at midfield late in the third quarter. On the resulting drive, Jackson took the Ravens down the field and hit tight end Nick Boyle for a touchdown that cut the Chiefs’ lead to 27-20 heading into the fourth quarter.
Then Mahomes went back to work. As he did almost all game long, Mahomes evaded the Ravens’ pass rush and blitzing attack. On third-and-19 from the Baltimore 39-yard line, he scrambled for 12 yards to keep the drive alive. The final touchdown pass to Fisher ended a 13-play, 75-yard drive that took nearly seven minutes and pushed the Chiefs’ lead back up to 14 points.
In the final going, Baltimore tried to speed up the pace with almost nine minutes remaining. But Jackson was sacked twice, then turned the ball over on downs. Jackson returned to the Baltimore bench talking to himself.