The Ravens and Bears honored their great linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher with some defense to make them proud in the Hall of Fame game that opened the NFL’s preseason Thursday night.
Oh, there was a little spark of offense, some provided by Baltimore’s first-round draft pick Lamar Jackson in the second half of a 17-16 victory. His 7-yard touchdown pass to fellow first-rounder Hayden Hurst came after the Ravens’ defense recovered a fumble.
Chicago put together its best drive in the final minutes and journeyman Tyler Bray connected with Tanner Gentry for a 10-yard score to cap a 92-yard march. But the 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete.
Otherwise, D was the letter of the day: there were six turnovers in all, and 12 sacks, eight by the Bears.
The teams exchanged tipped interceptions on the first two possessions of the preseason.
Chicago moved swiftly downfield only to have Chase Daniel’s pass to Josh Bellamy deflected to safety Chuck Clark at the Baltimore 6. He returned it 15 yards, then the Ravens replicated the turnover.
Robert Griffin III, attempting a comeback after sitting out 2017, had his pinpoint throw go off the hands of receiver Breshad Perriman, then off rookie cornerback Michael Joseph. DeAndre Houston-Carson dived to make the pick at the Ravens 34.
The Bears soon converted when Michael Burton caught a 4-yard scoring pass from Daniel.
Baltimore tied it, sparked by two big gainers by undrafted rookie running back Gus Edwards. Griffin found Maxx Williams for a 4-yard score.
Then Lewis’ old unit thrilled him. On the next play from scrimmage, linebacker Kamalei Correa sped 19 yards with an interception to the Chicago 9. But Urlacher’s former defense made him smile, sacking Griffin on third down to hold Baltimore to a 31-yard field goal by Kaare Vedvik.
Generally, it was a sloppy affair marred by a slew of dropped passes, poor protection for the quarterbacks, and misthrows by those QBs.
But something Lewis and Urlacher would approve, the defenses hit hard and tackled well.
NEW COACH, OFFENSE
Matt Nagy, of late the offensive coordinator in Kansas City, made his head coaching debut with the Bears. He has said his new offense is in the early steps of development, and it looked that way all night.
Of course, with backups playing it’s nearly impossible to gauge progress.
Each of the seven inductees to the hall who were on hand – Terrell Owens is a well-publicized no-show – received a rousing ovation when they were introduced before the game. Lewis replicated his patented warmup dance for a few seconds, and Urlacher slapped hand with every Bears player lined up on the 45-yard line.
Also walking along midfield between the lines of Ravens and Bears were Randy Moss, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Robert Brazile and Bobby Beathard.
Owens did make it onto the cover of the Hall of Fame enshrinement magazine, however.
At halftime, Hall of Famers Ozzie Newsome, the general manager of the Ravens, and Dan Fouts received their “Rings of Excellence” from David Baker, the hall’s president.
The first application of the NFL’s enhanced enforcement of penalties for players lowering their helmet to make a tackle occurred early. Ravens linebacker Patrick Onwuasor was flagged for his hit on Benny Cunningham, earning a 15-yard penalty that helped set up Chicago’s first touchdown.
Correa got nailed for the same violation in the third quarter, but he also had a sack that forced a fumble in that period, and three sacks overall.
Bears: At Cincinnati next Thursday night.
Ravens: Host Los Angeles Rams next Thursday night.