KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs have faced three top-10 scoring defenses this season and haven’t flinched. They won two of the games, getting at least 30 points each time, and lost the third even though their offense scored 40 points.
But they haven’t faced a defense like the one they will see on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium. The Ravens have the NFL’s stingiest defense both in points (17.8 per game) and yards (281.7) allowed.
That makes them an interesting matchup for the Chiefs, who lead the league in scoring at 37.0 points per game.
“It does present a challenge that you don’t see every single week,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “At the same time, [we’re] ready for challenges like that.”
These meetings between the No. 1 scoring offense and the No. 1 scoring defense don’t often happen, but they tend to favor the offensive powerhouse when they do. The top scoring team has won four of the five games against the top defense played after Week 10 since 2006.
In every case, the No. 1 offense has scored at least 27 points, including in the one game it lost.
That might bode well for the Chiefs, but other factors make Sunday’s game even more compelling. The Chiefs also yield points at a rapid rate, more than 27 per game, while the Ravens are averaging 28 in their three games with rookie Lamar Jackson starting at quarterback.
The Ravens average more than 32 minutes in time of possession, which is second most in the league. If the Chiefs can’t get the Baltimore offense off the field, that would limit Kansas City’s offensive chances.
“I don’t think it changes what you do,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “They’ve got a real good defense, the No. 1 defense in the league in most of the categories. So you’ve got to be efficient with what you do when you have the opportunity with the ball. That’s always our challenge.”
Then there’s the impact that Jackson could have. Baltimore’s regular starter, Joe Flacco, could return this week after missing the three games because of a hip injury.
The Ravens haven’t said whether Flacco or Jackson will start against the Chiefs. Both could wind up playing.
But there’s no denying the impact Jackson has had on the Ravens. He has run for more than 400 yards this season, and Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said it’s “fairly dramatic” how defenses have changed their approach to the Ravens with Jackson at quarterback instead of Flacco.
“We’ve never played against a [quarterback] as fast as this,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “With this quarterback, it adds a dimension that makes it hard to have a lot of people gang up on just the running back. There’s great balance in their run game now. It’s not just the back.”
Last winter at the NFL combine, when there was some thought Jackson would be asked to move to a different position, Reid said he thought the former Heisman Trophy winner at Louisville deserved a shot at quarterback.
Jackson’s passing stats — completion percentage of 59.7, two touchdowns, three interceptions — have been nothing special. But Reid didn’t back down this week.
“Don’t slight him as a thrower at all,” Reid said. “I made that statement … down at the combine. Give him a shot at quarterback. He’s pretty good at that. I’ll stand by that. He’s a unique player.”