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'Streetball' style and chemistry fueling Ravens' Lamar Jackson-Mark Andrews connection

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Yates: Lamar Jackson has proved a lot of doubters wrong (1:37)

Field Yates is impressed with how Lamar Jackson has performed throughout the first two weeks, but hasn't fully bought in because of the teams the Ravens have faced. (1:37)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews has long looked up to Travis Kelce, watching film of his Kansas City Chiefs counterpart all throughout college.

Whether he would compare himself to Kelce, Andrews deferred to others.

"I’ll leave that for you to decide,” Andrews told reporters.

With the Ravens playing at the Chiefs on Sunday, the numbers suggest Kelce and QB Patrick Mahomes will get an up-close look at the next-best quarterback-tight end combination in the NFL.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has connected with Andrews for 220 yards, tops among all tight ends including Kelce (195), this season. Andrews has produced 100 yards receiving and a touchdown in each of his first two games this season. The last tight end to do so was Kelce last season.

"We just find ways to get open," Jackson said. "I tell Mark all the time, ‘We’re going to play streetball,’ and that’s what the case is.”

Andrews and Jackson have been in sync almost from the time Jackson took over as starting quarterback around the middle of last year. They just see routes, coverages and adjustments the same way. By looking at the defense initially, for example, if it appears as if it’s giving Andrews the out route and then the defender ends up outside, Andrews will sit in the open spot and Jackson knows exactly where to find him.

Big play after clutch play, Andrews can go off script and Jackson will remain on the same page as him at nearly every turn -- well, except for the description of their chemistry.

"[It’s] just being able to play smart ball,” Andrews said.

There has been no surer bet early in the 2019 season than Jackson and Andrews. Jackson has completed 16 of 17 throws to Andrews (94.1%), the highest success rate in the NFL, according to NextGen Stats.

It's not all high-percentage checkdown passes and tight end screens. Andrews has totaled six catches of at least 15 yards, which leads all tight ends. Jackson's average pass to Andrews travels 9.6 yards in the air.

Ravens coaches talked this offseason about how Andrews would be allowed to have more freedom and creativity in his route-running. The result: Jackson's passer rating is 138.4 (out of a perfect 158.3) when targeting Andrews.

"It’s not all X's and O's on a card or a play sheet," coach John Harbaugh said. "A lot of it is the human element, the backyard part of it, the feel for where the defender is at, the connection between the quarterback and the receiver."

Andrews doesn't remember that singular moment when he formed that connection with Jackson. It started in practice when Andrews would run a route a little different than it was drawn up and Jackson's pass would come to him perfectly on time.

The football world took notice of Andrews and Jackson last season against the Los Angeles Chargers. On national television, the biggest play in the Ravens' biggest win of the year came on a 68-yard touchdown pass from Jackson to Andrews.

That momentum carried over into training camp, where Andrews was the offensive star, and, so far, into the regular season. Andrews can become the first tight end to put up 100 yards receiving and a touchdown in three straight games since Jimmy Graham in 2013.

"The chemistry he’s developing with Lamar, that’s something you can’t manufacture,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said.

Andrews doesn't take that chemistry for granted. He was an All-American tight end at Oklahoma, but it took three years for him to find that connection with Baker Mayfield. There were others whom Mayfield gravitated toward first.

"It wasn’t as an immediate impact and an immediate chemistry as it is with Lamar," Andrews said. "So, that’s the beauty of it. That’s why it’s so fun to play with Lamar."