Sunday's victory was an important boost for the Ravens in their young season, even with 15 games left on the schedule.
A barrage of serious injuries has forced this team to accept that the 2021 season be will be played without teammates who will be missed both on and off the field. Losing Week 1 in overtime to the Las Vegas Raiders only increased the feeling that the Ravens needed a win, a positive development to change the negativity.
The momentum shift the Ravens needed occurred when they rallied to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs, 36-35, during a memorable home opener at M&T Bank Stadium. After three straight losses to the Chiefs over the past three seasons, the Ravens finally turned the tables on a team that has tormented them.
No longer will Lamar Jackson hear that he has never enjoyed a victory against Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs don't have the Ravens' number. Despite their many injuries, the Ravens' first victory of the season came against the team that has won back-to-back AFC titles, affirmation that Baltimore still has the talent to hang with the NFL's heavyweights.
It was another example that Ravens teams under Head Coach John Harbaugh are often at their best when the odds seem stacked against them. The Ravens had not been home underdogs since 2019, when they defeated the New England Patriots in another prime time matchup.
Underdogs again, the Ravens won again. In any situation, it's always dangerous to count them out, and they fiercely believe the 2021 season is still filled with promise.
"Our team is strong. We're together," Lamar Jackson said after another display of his all-around talent. "That loss - that close loss in Las Vegas -feels like it gave us a little boost. It didn't slow us down. We know where we can be at, and we showed a little bit tonight. We've just got to keep getting better...We've just got to stay focused, just keep doing what we're doing, [and] we'll be fine."
Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale believes in mottos, and his credo for the week leading up to the Chiefs game was "Don't Flinch". That mantra may fit the Ravens for the entire season. They aren't the same team after J.K. Dobbins, Marcus Peters, Gus Edwards, L.J. Fort and Justice Hill have been lost for the season. All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) didn't play Sunday, forcing the Ravens to shift Alejandro Villanueva from right tackle to left tackle, while Patrick Mekari started at right tackle.
However, the Ravens' offensive line responded by outplaying the Chiefs' defensive line and opening up running lanes all night. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman devised a superb game plan and showed his creativity once again, and Stanley gave his offensive linemates a shoutout on Twitter after being inspited by their performance.
The Ravens still believe they can be a playoff team, one that can advance once they reach the postseason. Those possibilities remain if they don't flinch, and so far they haven't. The Ravens weren't playing their best defensively for almost three quarters and fell behind, 35-24, to one of the NFL's most potent offensive teams. But then Baltimore's defense turned up the intensity, led by rookie outside linebacker, Odafe Oweh who forced two turnovers with sensational plays.
A less resilient team would not have found a way to win. Seeing the Ravens respond so well to adversity Sunday night gives Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey a great feeling about this team is capable of accomplishing.
"I've been on a lot of teams, and bad plays happen, and guys start, 'Hey, this your fault,' and start blaming," Humphrey said. "Whether it's [a] little or big fuss, there really wasn't any fuss. We just kept saying the same thing - don't flinch.
"I think it shows that we can play with anybody. When we play good, Baltimore Ravens football, we're a tough team to beat. I think it's extremely positive. Everybody has been counting us out, but we're going to go out there [and] play hard - that's what we did tonight."
Harbaugh hopes the victory becomes a turning point in the season, but it's too early to tell. But going forward, the resiliency of the Ravens' cannot be questioned.
"It's definitely going to be a confidence builder, to win a game like that against a team like that, in your own stadium where the fans are so into it," Harbaugh said Monday afternoon. "It's going to be something that's going to be a big boost I think. We'll see."