NFL

Christmas Was Rough On Super Bowl Contenders Except For Ravens

Dec 26, 2023, 4:32 PM

lamar jackson baltimore ravens qb...

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 25: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens reacts after a play while Dre Greenlaw #57 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the second quarter at Levi's Stadium on December 25, 2023 in Santa Clara, California.

ASSOCIATED PRESS – The Chiefs lost again. The Eagles struggled against the lowly Giants. The 49ers were embarrassed at home.

Christmas Day was rough on Super Bowl contenders except for the Ravens.

Lamar Jackson boosted his MVP chances and Baltimore made a major statement with a convincing 33-19 victory over San Francisco in a prime-time matchup Monday night that featured the NFL’s two No. 1 seeds.

The Ravens (12-3) would earn a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win at home against Miami (11-4) on Sunday.

“I’m honored to be in the conversation,” Jackson said about improving his bid for his second NFL MVP award. “We just have to keep winning to get to February. That’s all.”

The goal for Jackson isn’t an individual award. He wants a Super Bowl ring. The Ravens have won five in a row and can’t let up with the Dolphins coming up next.

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The 49ers (11-4) were the NFL’s hottest team until they ran into Roquan Smith and Baltimore’s tenacious defense. Brock Purdy, who became an MVP favorite with a sensational stretch during a six-game winning streak, threw four interceptions and finished the night watching from the sideline after getting banged up.

Despite the loss, San Francisco is still in control of the NFC’s No. 1 seed. The 49ers would clinch the top spot with wins over the Commanders and Rams to close out the regular season.

But the rest of the NFC should have hope after watching the Ravens take down San Francisco. The 49ers, who dominated Philadelphia and Dallas in head-to-head matchups, looked vulnerable against Baltimore.

“I don’t think they’re demoralized,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said about his team. “We weren’t balanced, had too many turnovers.”

The holiday tripleheader began with a stunner when the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs gave one away, losing 20-14 to Las Vegas. The Raiders scored a pair of touchdowns on consecutive turnovers by Patrick Mahomes and won a game without completing a pass after the first quarter.

The Chiefs (9-6) have now lost five of eight and likely will have to play their first road playoff game with Mahomes if they even survive the wild-card round.

An offense that has sputtered throughout the season couldn’t do much against the Raiders and was unable to overcome the costly mistakes.

“I thought defense played a good game, just two mistakes that gave them two touchdowns there when you’re backed up in their red zone, so you just can’t do that,” Mahomes said. “Especially when defense is playing like they’re playing, but I just have to be better in that sense and not make those mistakes and try to find a way to play the game and the best way to win it.”

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Kansas City still has a two-game lead over the Raiders and Broncos in the AFC West but hasn’t clinched the division title yet. The Chiefs need one win over the Bengals or Chargers to wrap it up. But their road back to the Super Bowl will look different. Mahomes likely is going to have to play the first road playoff game of his career if the Chiefs advance beyond the wild-card round.

After the Chiefs were upset, it appeared there would be a rout in Philadelphia. The Eagles jumped to a 20-3 halftime lead over the Giants that sent Tommy DeVito to the bench.

But a pair of turnovers, including a pick-6 by Adoree Jackson off Jalen Hurts, got New York closer and Tyrod Taylor threw a 69-yard TD pass to Darius Slayton that cut it to 30-25 with 5:22 left.

Down 33-25, the Giants had a chance despite clumsy clock management. Taylor’s pass from the Philadelphia 26 was picked in the end zone to end the game.

The Eagles (11-4) snapped a three-game losing streak and stayed in control of the NFC East with an outside shot to still earn the No. 1 seed. But a shaky performance against the Giants isn’t going to silence critics. The Eagles often haven’t looked like the team that went to the Super Bowl last year.

“We know we have better football in us,” coach Nick Sirianni said. “To be 11-4 and still have better football left in you, that’s encouraging, but let’s go. We have to get there. We have to get there and saying we have two more games before the playoffs start, all we’re thinking about is the next game against a team that’s going to come in here and try to take what we have as well.”

Monday’s results along with the rest of Week 16 left more questions open across the NFL. There’s two weeks remaining to answer those before the playoffs.

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Christmas Was Rough On Super Bowl Contenders Except For Ravens