It took plenty of firsts for the Chiefs to fall to the Baltimore Ravens 36-35 on Sunday.
The first NFL fumble of Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The first interception in September of Patrick Mahomes’ career.
But even with those mistakes, it took a gutsy call by Ravens coach John Harbaugh, with agreement from Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson, to pull off the win.
And with it, another first — Jackson over Mahomes.
Even after Edwards-Helaire’s fumble with 1:20 remaining, the Chiefs held all three of their tirmeouts. Get three stops and force a punt, and Kansas City could get the ball back with an opportunity to get into field goal range.
Three Ravens plays produced nine yards, and on fourth-and-1 from the Baltimore 43, Harbaugh walked on the field and yelled to Jackson: “Do you want to go for it?”
Jackson responded in the affirmative. He took the snap, gained two yards and ended the Chiefs’ 15-game September winning streak. It also marked their first loss in a road game since falling at Tennessee in 2019.
The winning streak had reached 11 and the Chiefs were gunning for the NFL record of 18 set by the San Francisco 49ers from 1988-90.
According to NextGenStats, the Ravens had a 75% chance of converting on fourth and 1.
Here's a breakdown of the math behind the decision...
The Ravens had a 75% chance of converting on 4th-and-1 accounting Lamar Jackson at QB (1.1 yards to go).
If they convert, the Ravens win probability jumps to 99%. If they fail, 33%. If they punt, 58%.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 20, 2021
But unprecedented occurrences intervened. The Edwards-Helaire fumble was the most obvious error, but the feeling at M&T Bank Stadium changed earlier, on Mahomes’ gaffe.
The Chiefs were rolling. Travis Kelce had completed a 46-yard touchdown play on a remarkable catch-and-run for a 35-24 lead, and the Chiefs’ defense followed by coming up with a big stop. Safety Dan Sorensen sacked Jackson on third down, and a short Ravens punt set up Kansas City at midfield.
This was the opportunity to bury the Ravens. Instead Edwards-Helaire was dropped for a 5-yards loss, and the possession ended in Mahomes’ poor choice — a pass intended for Kelce, when he later said he should have thrown to Demarcus Robinson in the flat — that resulted in the interception by Tavon Young.
“The interception was not only dumb in the sense it was a bad throw and not close to the receiver, but it was dumb at that point in the game,” Mahomes said. “Even if I throw it the flat and (Robinson) doesn’t get the first down, we have a chance to decide to kick a field goal or punt and pin them back.
“It’s just a lot of little things in games like this that cause you get losses in the end.”
Those things mean the Chiefs, at 1-1, don’t hold at least a share of the AFC West lead for the first time since late in the 2016 season. So it’s the first time a Mahomes team hasn’t been in first place. The Chiefs are behind the Raiders and Broncos, who are each 2-0.
The loser of next week’s Chiefs-Chargers game at Arrowhead is guaranteed to spend at least one week in last place.
“We have to learn from all of this,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We have to do better. We’ll learn from that.”
Said Kelce: “We have to man up and fix the issues. We have to make sure we’re playing four quarters of football and not letting up any time during the game.”
Those let-ups led to firsts and turned a Chiefs victory into a meltdown.