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The Ravens decided to move on from offensive coordinator Greg Roman last season and replace him with Todd Monken. The goal was to modernize their offense and help Lamar Jackson take the next step as a pass rusher. They were successful in this. It took Jackson some time to adjust to the offense, but from Weeks 9 through 17 (the Ravens rested their starters in Week 18), they ranked fifth in EPA per drop. And it wasn’t just about burning bad teams in the air. Jackson had five touchdown passes against the Dolphins in Week 17, against a top-10 pass defense.

The answer was clear in the Chiefs’ elite pass defense and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnolo, the best postseason defensive coordinator in recent memory. Everything from the film to the numbers screamed for them to run the ball in Sunday’s AFC Championship game.

• The Chiefs are 22nd in defensive success against the run.
• The Chiefs are fourth-best in EPA defense against the infield.
• From 2022 (regular and playoffs), the Chiefs are the fifth-worst team in defensive EPA in quarterback rushing and scrimmages.

The Ravens needed to put big bodies on the field, they needed to run between the plays and Jackson needed to make a big rusher again. Instead, they used 11 personnel on 63.2 percent of their snaps, their second-highest rate of the season. They used only 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends, two receivers) on six occasions (four in the first half). The Ravens running backs carried the ball just six times and Jackson had just two hurries on designed rushes. The rest of the bearers were kneelers and one was kneeling.

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The presentation also played right into the strengths of the bosses. The Bills had an effective game plan against the leaders in the divisional round. Buffalo gave up 24 points and a point at home. They rushed for 122 yards – quarterback Josh Allen had 72 of those yards. Tight end Dalton Kincaid was their leading receiver and in their regular season game against the Chiefs, running back James Cook was their leading receiver.

Overall, the Chiefs have the best defensive team in football. During the regular season, they allowed the fourth-fewest yards to wide receivers. The Ravens targeted their receivers 20 times on Sunday and used so many 11 personnel that the Chiefs were able to stay in nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (six defensive backs) on 79 percent of snaps. In six snaps in which the Ravens used 12 personnel, the Chiefs were tied with a base (four defensive backs) four times.

• Nine-yard pass to Mark Andrews.
• Justice Hill is run on a non-profit basis.
• 30-yard touchdown pass to Zay Flowers.
• Jackson five-yard run.

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Jackson completed two passes for 17 yards. The success rate was 66% with 12 employees getting it six times. The Ravens entered with 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end, two receivers) in five snaps (not including the quarterback). On all five snaps, the Chiefs loaded the box, seemingly scaring the Ravens into giving the ball away. Baltimore gave the ball to running backs just three times out of this set of personnel. One went for 15 yards and two went for a one-yard gain.

6:18 left in the first quarter, first-and-10

Here, the Ravens moved into an I-formation and ran an old-school power run.

Baltimore got excellent blocks at the point of attack, guard John Simpson got into the hole, and Patrick Rickard got out the end.

The extra defender made a 15-yard run to Edwards’ inside gap to win the game.

Having a mobile quarter is supposed to solve the problem of extra defenders. In the example above, the Ravens ran the ball over the middle, so Jackson had no threat to keep the ball as an option.

Understandably, the Ravens reduced their use of run option plays during the regular season. The approach helped keep Jackson healthy, but this was the AFC Championship Game. With this defense, if you don’t want to use one of Jackson’s best attributes, you’re handcuffing your offense.

Monken called two run/pass options (RPOs) in which Jackson made the wrong decision to throw the ball instead of punting it.

Second-and-1 with 10:41 left in the second quarter

Here, the Ravens had a counterattack against the Chiefs’ coin-flip (5-1).

The Ravens hit Morgan Moses, effectively blocking the game, but Jackson didn’t fumble the ball.

Instead, he tried to throw a bubble screen to outside flowers where the Chiefs had a numbers advantage.

The Chiefs scored two runs early, but that shouldn’t deter Monken from scoring more. Perhaps Monken was flustered by the Chiefs jumping out to an early lead, but the Chiefs only held a 10-point lead for most of the game. There was no reason to leave the race.

5:14 left in the third quarter, first-and-10

On this play, the Ravens were inside 12 men on first and 10. The Chiefs had two deep safeties, but the Ravens had a play-action shooting game.

The Chiefs had seven interceptions for seven defenders in the box, but the Ravens passed the ball instead. There were plenty of hints where the Ravens looked to run on first downs but decided to pass instead. Monken called plays that were down by three possessions for the entire game.

Last week, Allen rushed for 42 yards (30 yards and two touchdowns on touchdown runs) against the Chiefs. As mentioned, the Chiefs are one of the worst teams at preventing turnovers. Spagnuolo calls for more man and match coverage as the defensive backs turn their backs on the quarterback. The Ravens have improved their receivers but are not on the same level as the Chiefs defensive backs.

Odell Beckham Jr. was disappointed with his injury. Andrews wasn’t playing 100 percent. Flowers will be a star, but he’s still a rookie and needs to refine. There were some chances on the pitch but the leaders’ secondary was largely stifled. There were several instances where Jackson had to fight for yardage but decided not to.

12:37 left in the third quarter, third-and-6

Early in the third quarter, on third-and-6, the Ravens appeared to have a 989 concept.

The Chiefs were in the cover 2 zone. Usually on the 2-deep, the quarterback first looks straight to the Z before looking at the slot that goes to the “middle read”. Jackson made the right read and looked to Rashod Bateman on the right side, but was pushed out of bounds by Jalen Watson. Flowers was Jackson’s second reading. Usually, in this concept, Flowers would have to run into the middle of the field in two deep coverages, but he adjusted his route.

Jackson had to defend Chris Jones, who rushed inside, but if he ran, he had an ocean of space to pick up a first down and more.

Jackson is a downfield offensive lineman and was chasing opportunities downfield. He hit a 30-yard bomb to Flowers, bought time and threw downfield, but against this pass defense, they just needed to move the chains.

This seems to have been the general philosophy of the princes. The Ravens want big plays instead of eating their vegetables and moving the ball tactically. That’s why they decided to play Gus Edwards on the Hill for most of the game when Edwards was their primary back for most of the season. They chose Hill’s explosiveness as a runner and receiver over Edwards’ size. But against the Chiefs’ blitzing defense, they need a strong pass blocker, and Hill’s defense has been bad.

3:53 left in the third quarter, third-and-9

On third-and-9, the Chiefs lined up in an unusual faceoff that prompted the Ravens to call man coverage.

Maybe Monken thought they could take Hill out on the road, but since the bosses were on the blink, he had to stay in and wait. Hill was quickly hit by safety Justin Reid for the sack.

If Jackson has an extra second in the pocket, he’ll have flowers dripping down the middle of the field without any safety help.

Many correctly assumed that the AFC Championship would be a defensive game. After the Chiefs’ first-quarter blowout, the Ravens’ defense shut down Kansas City in the second half, but Baltimore’s offense couldn’t sustain drives and turned the ball over. What makes this Ravens offense unique is the adaptation from the supposed element. They didn’t adjust to the Chiefs and it cost them a shot at the Super Bowl against a 49ers team that blew up earlier in the season.

Not that the one game move from Roman to Monken was a mistake. Monken has helped Jackson develop as a pass rusher and Jackson should be better with a year in the system under his belt. For Monken and Jackson, this should be a learning experience. The AFC goes through the Kansas City Chiefs and their defense is young, they will be a threat team for at least a few years. The Ravens must continue to improve on offense and put up numbers in the regular season, but they will inevitably meet the Chiefs on the road to the Super Bowl. Will they have the right answer when they do?

(Top photo: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)