Perspective | The Ravens’ response to Patrick Mahomes: ‘It’s about us, always and forever.’ (2024)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Here are Patrick Mahomes’s salient numbers in his 16 career playoff starts: a completion percentage of 66.8, 4,561 passing yards with 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions. If he produced those numbers over a full regular season, he would be an MVP candidate. That he did it against only playoff teams at the most critical time of the year jumps off the page, even if it’s spread over his six years as the starter for and heart of the Kansas City Chiefs, even if most of those games were at home.

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“Definitely a Hall of Famer,” said his counterpart in Sunday’s AFC championship game, Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson. “It’s a no-brainer.”

Can a contemporary make that coronation for someone who’s just 28? Well, consider the list of quarterbacks who have produced a regular season that resembles Mahomes’s postseason career: a completion percentage of at least 65, at least 4,500 passing yards with a minimum of 35 touchdowns and a maximum of seven interceptions.


They are: Aaron Rodgers in 2011, Matt Ryan in 2016 and 2018 and Mahomes in 2020.

Put another way: In the history of the NFL, only two players not named Mahomes have put together a season — against contenders and also-rans — that even vaguely resembles Mahomes’s playoff résumé.

Definitely a Hall of Famer. Only six seasons into his career as a starter, he will play in his sixth AFC championship game. Only Tom Brady, with eight straight conference title games from the 2011 to 2018 seasons, has a run like that. And that wasn’t to start Brady’s career.

So all the Ravens have to do to advance to the Super Bowl is contain a player who has exactly one postseason game in which he threw more interceptions than touchdowns, who hasn’t thrown an interception in the past two postseasons, who has been sacked in one of his past five postseason games, who has a 113.3 passer rating in his past three postseasons, a span in which his touchdown-to-interception ratio is 21-3.


Oh, and in his past three playoff games, he has 104 yards — rushing.

“It’s pretty hard to pick the biggest challenge versus Patrick Mahomes,” Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said. “I think it’s the whole package, everything he does.”

The best news for Baltimore: Mahomes will be dealing with the whole package, everything the Ravens’ defense does. That’s not nothing.

To be clear, the Mahomes of the 2023 regular season isn’t the Mahomes of his playoff past. In his six years as a starter, he has never thrown for fewer yards per game (261.4), yards per attempt (7.0) or yards per completion (10.4) or had more interceptions (14). He posted the lowest passer rating of his career.

Now, the Chiefs had a season-long, team-wide case of the drops, and Mahomes doesn’t quite have the array of weapons he once did. (Hello, Tyreek Hill.) It’s easy to chalk up Kansas City’s return to this game to the offense’s production and Mahomes’s brilliance because that has been both the assumption and the reality for more than half a decade.


But the fact is the Chiefs’ defense ranked second in yards allowed, sacks generated and percentage of opponents’ drives that ended in a score and fifth in yards allowed per play. Mahomes is still the centerpiece. He’s here because he had help — on the other side of the ball.

This all makes Sunday’s game in Baltimore fascinating. The top-seeded Ravens are the rare postseason favorites over Mahomes — and have some swagger, even if they’re facing a historically accomplished playoff opponent.

“Hats off to him for everything that he does,” linebacker Roquan Smith said. “But at the end of the day, it’s about us — always and forever.”

The Ravens can say those things and act that way because they are a seething, teeming mass of athleticism and speed on defense, and they know it. Baltimore has six first-round picks on its starting defense (though cornerback Marlon Humphrey may not play because of injury). That obvious talent is blended with earned confidence. If the Ravens believe their fate isn’t in Mahomes’s hands but is in fact about them — always and forever — it’s because they have the performances to present their case.


Baltimore’s point differential (plus-203) is the NFL’s second best of the past decade; only the 2019 Ravens were better. It allowed 4.62 yards per play, eighth best in that span, and 24 offensive touchdowns, tied for third best in those 10 seasons (eight of which were 16 games, as opposed to 17). The Ravens led the league in sacks and held opposing quarterbacks to the lowest passer rating in the league.

Baltimore beat the two NFC finalists — San Francisco and Detroit — by a combined score of 71-25. The Ravens’ edge is warranted. Yet they have to acknowledge that the beast who will arrive Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium is different from anyone they have faced, and he arrives at a time of year that is distinctly his.

They’ll rely on scouting, film study, preparation, drilling. But they’ll rely on their experience, too.


“I was telling some of the guys, ‘When you come off the blitz, Mahomes will pump-fake you,’ ” Humphrey told reporters Thursday. He said that a couple of years ago he blasted Mahomes, a good hit he figured would rock the quarterback.

“The tragic part was, he threw a touchdown before I hit him,” Humphrey said. “He does a lot of things with the ball. … When I started seeing him in the offseason practicing running backwards and throwing the ball, I knew the league was in trouble.”

The league has been in trouble since Mahomes became a starter. He has as many Super Bowl appearances as he does playoff losses — three apiece. He is already a historic postseason figure who is in the process of making more history. The Ravens are the next problem in his path. Sharpen the knives, on both sides.

Perspective | The Ravens’ response to Patrick Mahomes: ‘It’s about us, always and forever.’ (2024)
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