Chiefs 27 Ravens 24
The Baltimore Ravens had been waiting for this opportunity to show off their swaggering defense and bruising run offense on the NFL's biggest regular season stage.
Instead, for much of their first "Monday Night Football" appearance in two years, the Ravens displayed poor tackling and a sputtering offense, and the Kansas City Chiefs ended up with their first win of the season, 27-24, in front of 69,827 at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore fell to 2-2.
"It's very disappointing to not play as physical as we're capable of, plain and simple," Baltimore Coach Brian Billick said. "We'll look at this formation and that defense and this angle and this technique, but it came down to they were more physical than we were in just about every facet, which is something unique for us."
Heading into the game, Kansas City was 0-3 for the first time since 1980, but Ravens players and coaches maintained throughout the week that the Chiefs were essentially the same team that finished with a 13-3 record last season.
This was billed as a matchup between two of the league's best running backs: Kansas City's Priest Holmes, who had an NFL-record 27 rushing touchdowns in 2003, and Baltimore's Jamal Lewis, who rushed for the second-highest total in league history (2,066 yards) last year. The players are tied together by more than the same jersey number (31): Holmes began his career in Baltimore and was something of a mentor to Lewis during his rookie season (2000).
Holmes ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries to become the first player to rush for more than 100 yards against the Ravens since Miami's Ricky Williams did so on Nov. 16, a span of nine games. Lewis, who has had to deal with a potential plea bargain agreement that would resolve his impending drug conspiracy case, gained 18 yards on his first carry but was held in check after that. He finished with 73 yards on 15 carries.
The Ravens ran the ball only 20 times and gained just 80 yards on the ground against the Chiefs, whose defense was ranked 29th in the league against the run. Lewis seemed frustrated after the game.
"We didn't come out and set a good tempo like we do every week as far as doing what we do best, which is run the football," Lewis said. "I think being that their defense is like it is as far as, you know, holding the run, we didn't attack it. We didn't take advantage of their weakness, which was to pound the ball at them and run it down their throat. We didn't do that."
Kansas City held a huge advantage in time of possession; the Chiefs (39 minutes 43 seconds) had the ball nearly twice as long as the Ravens (20:17).
Kansas City scored on sustained drives (an average of 12 plays per scoring drive), while Baltimore struck quickly (an average of six plays per scoring drive).
Case in point: The Ravens tied the score at 10 early in the second quarter by opening a drive with a trick play. Lewis took a handoff from quarterback Kyle Boller, ran three yards to the right, and then threw the ball back to Boller, who launched a deep pass to Randy Hymes. The wide receiver was open behind the Kansas City secondary; he hauled in the pass, slipped through the hands of diving safety Greg Wesley and fell into the end zone with a 57-yard touchdown, the Ravens' longest pass play of the season.
Kansas City responded to the Ravens' big play by putting together a 14-play drive that chewed up 79 yards and eight minutes and resulted in a four-yard touchdown run by Holmes. The Ravens had two good chances to stop the drive, but poor tackling let the Chiefs escape. On third and 16 from the Kansas City 26, tight end Tony Gonzalez shrugged off a tackle attempt by safety Ed Reed and got enough extra yards for the first down. Later, on third and nine from the Baltimore 17, quarterback Trent Green slipped away from linebacker Adalius Thomas in the backfield and scrambled 13 yards.
Baltimore caught a break in the final minutes of the first half. On a third and 12 deep in his own territory, Holmes was pushed out of bounds near the first down marker. The spot of the ball was reviewed by the official, and replays showed that Holmes went out just short of the first down. The Chiefs were forced to punt, and rookie B.J. Sams dodged and darted his way down the field for a 58-yard touchdown return with 1:30 left in the half.
Sams returned two punts and six kickoffs for a total of 250 yards.
The Ravens' offense -- and Lewis -- finally awoke early in the fourth quarter.
Boller hit Kevin Johnson with a 22-yard pass, and then Lewis reeled off one tough run after another, once nearly running over an on-rushing defender.
Lewis scored on a one-yard leap and pulled the Ravens to within three points at 27-24.
The Ravens' defense came up with two defensive stops in the fourth quarter to give the offense chances to overcome the three-point deficit, but Baltimore gained a total of 19 yards on the two drives.
The first drive was handcuffed by two penalties on the offensive line and resulted in a punt. The second drive was equally ineffective, featuring a fumble by Boller that was recovered by Johnson and a sack in which Boller ran into his own lineman. Baltimore's last gasp was a deep fourth-down pass to Johnson that glanced off his fingertips as he dove.
Ravens Notes: Cornerback Deion Sanders was inactive for the second straight game because of an injured hamstring. Three starters were also inactive for the Ravens because of injuries: center Mike Flynn (collarbone), tight end Todd Heap (ankle) and wide receiver Travis Taylor (groin). . . . Former defensive end Michael McCrary was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor during halftime.