In the Baltimore Ravens' 33-27 overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday, Don "Wink" Martindale's defense surrendered a whopping 435 passing yards to Derek Carr. That's one of many reasons why Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his weapons should be licking their chops ahead of Sunday's game.
In Week 1, Mahomes completed 75% of his passes en route to 337 yards and three touchdowns (four total). The vast majority of those completions and yards went to Tyreek Hill (11 receptions for 197 yards) and Travis Kelce (six receptions for 76 yards). All three passing touchdowns went to Mahomes' most lethal targets. The Chiefs' superstar trio was as good as ever against a solid, yet still developing Cleveland Browns defense.
Heading into the 2021 season, many circled the Week 2 contest between the Chiefs and Ravens as a matchup that could give Mahomes and company some trouble. Martindale's seemingly loaded unit was set to rank among the NFL's best. Todd Karpovich of Raven Country joined me on today's Roughing the Kicker podcast to discuss why that may no longer be the case.
Unfortunately for the Ravens, the injury bug has bitten them this year. Hard. On offense, three running backs and first-round wide receiver Rashod Bateman have suffered significant injuries. Tackle Ronnie Stanley is expected to miss this weekend's game. Defensively, former Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters recently suffered a torn ACL. Fellow cornerback Chris Westry didn't practice on Wednesday or Thursday. Jimmy Smith and Marlon Humphrey are nursing ailments of their own.
The list doesn't stop there. Defensive end Derek Wolfe, who re-upped on a new three-year deal during the offseason, continues to extend his absence into the regular season with a back/hip injury. Across the board, the Ravens are dealing with heaping amounts of loss — both short-term and for the year. Against what is quite possibly the league's most prolific offense, that spells a recipe for disaster.
Mahomes thrives against opposing blitzes. Martindale just so happens to be a blitz-happy coordinator who thrives when he deploys enough bodies to create pressure situations. Can the Ravens rely on players like Justin Houston (another former Chief) and rookie Odafe Oweh to generate consistent pressure? The answer is likely no, which leads to additional linebackers and defensive backs being needed to help.
The catch here is that Hill is the league's fastest player and Kelce is arguably its most unguardable one-on-one matchup. If Martindale goes blitz-heavy, he's inevitably leaving his coverage options without assistance. Given that some have already been ruled out and others are far from 100% healthy, Baltimore is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Getting home to the quarterback with just four pass-rushers is one of the main elements of the so-called "blueprint" to beat the Chiefs. The Ravens may not be able to do that on Sunday night. If they can't, they'll have to pick their poison between two choices: load up the box and hope the Chiefs' trio can't generate big plays, or hope its long drives don't end in touchdowns. Either way, the Chiefs' attack is in a good position to assert itself against an AFC foe.