Bears drop preseason opener to Ravens

Tribune's Brad Biggs on Bears Head Coach Marc Trestman

CANTON, Ohio (AP) — The goals were to let the backups play and learn, and to be inspired.

Missions accomplished.

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. Baltimore held on 17-16.

“Ray is the greatest linebacker of our time,” said 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, who quarterbacked the second half for the Ravens. “That was a big thrill and exciting stuff.”

Oh, there was a little spark of offense, some provided by Baltimore’s first-round draft pick. Jackson’s 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.

“To represent Ray in this game to our guys meant even more,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

“It was a special moment for our organization,” noted new Bears coach Matt Nagy.

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.

“It felt great,” Griffin said. “I can’t tell you how grateful I am to play the game again.”

Then Lewis’ old unit gave him a thrill. 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 among backups 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.