This year, the brain trust at Electronic Arts gave Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson a well-publicized and worthy honor by putting his likeness on the cover of its Madden NFL 21 video game. Jackson had earned it: He was voted the N.F.L.’s most valuable player last season, and has quickly emerged as one of the most exciting players in the league.
But Jackson’s swift rise took a humbling pause on Monday night when Patrick Mahomes, his counterpart on the Kansas City Chiefs, showed why he remains the face of the league and the most electrifying player in the game.
In a display of athleticism, creativity and poise, Mahomes and the Chiefs dismantled Jackson’s Ravens — the league’s top-ranked defense — in a 34-20 victory that was more lopsided than the final score indicated.
The Chiefs struck quickly and often in the first half, with Mahomes throwing screen passes to the rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, long touchdowns to the speedy receivers Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman, and numerous passes in the middle of the field to tight end Travis Kelce. For good measure, he ran for a touchdown as well.
And when the Ravens took advantage of two Chiefs turnovers in the second half to pull within a touchdown, Mahomes rebooted the Chiefs’ offense to put the game out of reach. In the process, he set an N.F.L. record by surpassing 10,000 yards passing for his career in the fewest games, breaking Kurt Warner’s record.
“The sky’s the limit for this kid,” Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins said. “He’s a rare breed of talent.”
Even after winning the league’s M.V.P. in 2018, and the same honor when the Chiefs in the Super Bowl in February, Mahomes continues to amaze. He threw one of his signature no-look passes. He shoveled an underhand touchdown pass to his fullback. He ran for first downs to extend drives. He lofted 40-yard passes with Baltimore’s blitzing linebackers bearing down on him. And to seal the game, he threw a 2-yard score to one of his offensive linemen, Eric Fisher.
In all, Mahomes completed 31 of 42 passes for 385 yards and four touchdowns. By rushing for his team’s first score, he ensured he had a direct hand in all five Kansas City touchdowns.
In the process, Mahomes turned what was supposed to be a showdown between two of the league’s best teams led by two of the league’s best quarterbacks into another reminder of how far he is ahead of his peers.
“You have to take your hat off to Patrick Mahomes,” Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell said. “Right now, they play like the best team in the league.”
Mahomes has now beaten Jackson in all three of their head-to-head matchups since 2018. In his young career as a starting quarterback, Jackson is now 0-3 against the Chiefs and 21-1 against every other team in the league during the regular season. It was the Ravens’ first regular-season loss in a year.
“Our kryptonite,” Jackson said after yet another loss to Mahomes and the Chiefs.
At times, it is hard to fathom that Mahomes just turned 25 this month. After winning the Super Bowl in February, he signed a 10-year contract worth as much as $500 million. In June, he was one of several star players who made a video calling on the N.F.L. to acknowledge that Black lives matter. After he received his Super Bowl ring, he got engaged. For good measure, he bought a stake in the Kansas City Royals.
Considering the result of Monday’s game, it was remarkable that the Chiefs were 3.5-point underdogs coming into it. Afterward, several Chiefs players took to social media to mock the oddsmakers.
The matchup was billed as a potential preview of the A.F.C. Championship game in January. Under the new playoff format this season, only the top seeded team will earn a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Now, the Chiefs already hold the tiebreaker if they and the Ravens wind up tying with the conference’s best record.
In the first half on Monday, the Chiefs used their full complement of talent. Mahomes spread the ball around, doling out touches to Edwards-Helaire and to Kelce, his trusted tight end. The Chiefs went up, 27-10, with less than three minutes left in the first half. The Ravens’ lone touchdown in the half came on a 93-yard kickoff return.
For much of the game, the Ravens looked flustered. Jackson ran for 83 yards but ended up with a career-low (at least as a starter) 97 yards passing. He had only 15 completions, and only one touchdown pass. His receivers didn’t help. Jackson missed a certain touchdown throw to start the third quarter when the usually sure-handed tight end Mark Andrews couldn’t pull in one of Jackson’s passes.
Still, the Ravens crept closer to the Chiefs after taking advantage of two miscues — a fumble that led to a field goal midway through the third quarter, and a defensive stop on fourth down that gave them the ball at midfield. On the resulting drive, Jackson took the Ravens down the field and hit tight end Nick Boyle for a score that cut the Chiefs’ lead to 27-20 heading into the fourth quarter.
But Mahomes brought the Chiefs right back, throwing his final touchdown pass to Fisher, an offensive tackle who lined up as an eligible receiver. As Mahomes jogged off the field, he counted to four with the fingers on his right hand to signify how many touchdown passes he had thrown.