OWINGS MILLS — The story is well documented by now.
Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson replaces long-time starter Joe Flacco. He leads the Ravens to six wins in the season’s final seven games to capture an unlikely AFC North championship and the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2014.
Despite his high winning percentage, Jackson is the sort of person to always harp on the negatives. He constantly reminds reporters just how much he hates to lose. This weekend, he and the Ravens return to the location of their lone loss from the final seven weeks of last season as Baltimore travels to Kansas City for a highly-anticipated matchup with the Chiefs.
“It’s still with me right now,” Jackson said of the loss. “It doesn’t go away until I get that opportunity again and perform very well.”
Head coach John Harbaugh said last year’s trip to Arrowhead Stadium and this visit are entirely different.
“They’re different games. We were in a different place last year. We were trying to claw our way back into the playoff hunt with a quarterback playing his second or third game,” he said. “Now, we’re early in the season, we’re trying to make our way. There will be a lot at stake at the end of the year when you count them up, but right now, I think both teams are trying to find who they are and are trying to win an early AFC matchup.”
Jackson entered last year’s game 3-0 as a starting quarterback. He had started just a single road game – the previous week against the Atlanta Falcons. Kansas City was a different story – the Chiefs boast arguably the NFL’s strongest home-field advantage.
“Kansas City had a great fan base that game,” Jackson said. “The crowd was pumped.”
Flacco returned from injury the next week, but the Ravens decided Jackson had done enough to keep the starting job after the overtime loss.
Both teams are 2-0 coming into Sunday, but the surprise may be that the game is a matchup of two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. Few expected Lamar Jackson to be posting similar passing numbers as Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes – the reigning league MVP – after two weeks.
Jackson boasts the highest passer rating in the NFL at 145.2. He became the youngest quarterback in league history to post a perfect rating during his five-touchdown performance Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins. Mahomes ranks third with a 136.3 rating.
The two are in a three-way tie with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott for the most touchdown passes through two weeks (7). Neither Jackson or Mahomes has yet to throw an interception.
Mahomes has an NFL-best 14 completions of 20 yards are more – Jackson ranks second with 12.
Mahomes was named NFL MVP in his second season after playing sparringly as a rookie. Jackson appears on track to make a similar leap.
“It’s Ravens versus the Chiefs. I don’t even look at it like I’m competing against him – I’m competing against the defense, if anything,” Jackson said of the quarterback matchup. “I depend on my defense to do a great job stopping him, and my job is to score points. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said that through two games, Jackson is showing a complete grasp of the Ravens offense.
“It’s wide open,” he said. “The coordinators and the quarterback coaches, they’ve opened the gate for him. They’re doing a million different things, and he’s doing it well, and it looks like he’s loving doing it.”
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