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Bears vs. Ravens: Notes from a tight 17-16 loss

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The 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game wasn’t a flashy one, but it brought about the return of Chicago Bears football.

Chicago Bears v Baltimore Ravens
Chase Daniel and the Bears failed to get much going offensively, resulting in a 17-16 loss.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Chicago Bears football made its not-so-triumphant return on Thursday night, as the Bears fell in a 17-16 preseason matchup against the Baltimore Ravens in the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.

Outside of special teams players, none of Chicago’s starters saw a snap in the game, which allowed their backups the opportunity to shine. Some took advantage of that extra playing time, while others failed to boost their stock. Here are some of my notes from the Bears’ loss.

  • I am so incredibly happy that football is back, even if it’s just the preseason.
  • Chase Daniel threw an interception on Chicago’s opening drive, but the offense looked impressive overall on the drive. Josh Bellamy had two grabs - including a 25-yard gain - and Benny Cunningham had a nice 30-yard run. The Bears would have scored had Bennie Fowler not dropped a potential touchdown catch, and the overall result of the drive wasn’t ideal, but the drive itself could have been a lot worse.
  • DeAndre Houston-Carson kicked things off with an interception on the Bears’ first defensive drive of the year. He has already proven to be a reliable special teamer, so showing that he can make plays on defense only helps his standing with the team.
  • Man, whatever happened to Breshad Perriman? He went from a 2015 first-round pick to a player who might not even make the Ravens’ roster this year. That’s saying something, considering how thin they are at wide receiver.
  • The first touchdown scored in the 2018 NFL season was scored by...Michael Burton! Gotta love fullback touchdowns.
  • Isaiah Irving wasn’t ultimately offsides, so the play didn’t count, but he looked explosive on his strip sack of Robert Griffin III. He has a real shot of making the 53-man roster with the lack of depth at the outside linebacker position.
  • I was on a train and missed the first quarter, so I was just following along on Twitter and asked a few people about how players looked in that quarter in general. From what I was told, John Timu looked bad in coverage, Kylie Fitts looked slow and Abdullah Anderson was unable to eat up gaps up the middle. That especially affects Timu and Anderson, who are likely on the outside looking in on the 53-man roster.
  • Chase Daniel’s second interception was thrown behind Dion Sims and right to Kamalei Correa, and it seemed as though Sims didn’t have much of a chance to catch it, even though his route was lazy.
  • Luckily for the Bears, Daniel presumably won’t play on offense barring an injury to Mitchell Trubisky. Daniel is good for what he’s on the team for - an experienced backup who knows how Matt Nagy’s offense works - but not much else.
  • Isaiah Irving followed up his called-back sack with an actual sack later on in the first quarter, in which he looked quick and explosive off the edge. The Bears enter the preseason with their biggest weakness being at the outside linebacker position, so any development from Irving would be much appreciated by Chicago.
  • Roy Robertson-Harris racked up a sack early on in the second quarter. He’s taking part in what be the only true starting lineup battle with Jonathan Bullard, so any plays that Robertson-Harris makes in the preseason will do nothing but increase his chances of becoming a starter.
  • Bennie Fowler finished up the first half with two drops, including the aforementioned dropped touchdown. His odds of making the 53-man roster were slim to begin with, so missed plays like those won’t do anything to improve his chances of making the team.
  • Not to be outdone by Robertson-Harris, Bullard stuffed Gus Edwards on a one-yard loss. His get-off speed was spectacular on the play, which is very intriguing. He followed that up with a sack two plays later.
  • In between Bullard’s two big plays, Deon Bush lowered the boom on Nick Keizer. Keizer was running an in route across the middle of the field and Bush cleanly delivered a powerful hit.
  • Speaking of Keizer, he gave up a sack to Kylie Fitts later on in the second quarter. Fitts got off to a slow start, but he seemed to be more comfortable as the game progressed.
  • Chicago’s offensive line as a whole looked rough in the first half. They gave up two sacks - both to Kamalei Correa - and allowed pressure on a handful of occasions early on. Again, it’s not the end of the world since the players that played last night won’t be starting in the regular season, but it’s always more encouraging to see depth players succeeding in the preseason so that there isn’t as much fear if any of them have to start at any point during the regular season.
  • Veteran defensive lineman Nick Williams had a sack near the end of the second quarter, marking the Bears’ fifth sack of the first half. Williams is highly unlikely to make the team, but he has had solid training camp performances and has followed that up with a good game last night.
  • Fitts really started to get into the groove in the second quarter. He put pressure on both Griffin and Josh Woodrum, and he made a play in coverage, as well, tackling Tim White and allowing just a three-yard game.
  • The Bears weren’t incredibly flashy in their play calling on offense. They opted to playing conservative in this first preseason game, which will change in the regular season.
  • DeMarcus Ayers didn’t do himself any favors early on in the game. He wasn’t all that impressive as a punt returner, and he had a fumble early on in the third quarter. He was solid later in the game, though, as he ended up with five receptions and 46 yards.
  • Lamar Jackson is electric and is an absolute joy to watch. He’s not a Chicago Bear, but he’s so athletic in and out of the pocket that it’s basically impossible to not enjoy watching him. If he develops correctly, he can be a game-changing talent.
  • Right as I finished writing that sentence, Jackson was sacked by Elijah Norris.
  • Ryan Nall wasn’t great at running outside of the tackles in college, and his first run, which was to the outside, wasn’t very impressive. He had an underwhelming NFL debut, as he only had 13 rushing yards on seven carries, as well as five yards on one catch. He’ll have to step up his game if he wants to make it onto the 53-man roster.
  • Colin Thompson dropped an easy pass by Tyler Bray. Drops were a problem for many players last night, and most of them came from players on the roster bubble.
  • Most of Bray’s passes had good velocity, which is encouraging to see. He’s not a lock to make the 53-man roster, so it’s good for him that he has been able to show off his live arm in the middle of the game.
  • I reiterate this: Chicago’s offensive line was rough in this game. They allowed four sacks and a lot of pressure, which caused a handful of bad passes by Daniel and Bray. Rashaad Coward, the former defensive tackle turned offensive tackle, didn’t look too shabby, though, showing off solid athleticism and better-than-expected technique. He could be an intriguing practice squad option.
  • The new rules regarding tacklers leading with their helmet was on full display in this game. Four calls were made, and, surprisingly, most of the calls were warranted. The one call that was questionable was the call on Nick Orr in the end zone, as he lead more with his shoulder than his head.
  • Doran Grant caught the first interception of Lamar Jackson’s career. Grant read the hitch perfectly and jumped the route with great timing.
  • Brandon Greene’s kick slide proved to be ineffective when he gave up a sack to Kamalei Correa in the third quarter, who got his third sack of the day and continued his phenomenal outing.
  • Chicago’s pass rush was simply stupefying, and in a good way, surprisingly enough. They were able to put consistent pressure on Baltimore’s offensive line and they managed to finish the job more often than not.
  • Javon Wims’ hands looked sticky last night. He caught fseven of his ten targets, and on all seven plays he made great catches and seemingly trapped the ball in his hands like a fly into a spider web. His third catch in particular was intriguing, as he displayed the ability to high point the ball and make the grab in a 50/50 situation.
  • Wims is currently projected as the No. 6 wide receiver on the roster, but he can possibly pass up Josh Bellamy at the No. 5 spot with a good preseason.
  • Tyler Bray is not a good athlete. Neither is Chase Daniel. Both of their inabilities to scramble away from pressure in the pocket makes me clamor for the return of Mitchell Trubisky.
  • Jack Allen, a late addition to the roster in the middle of training camp, had a terrible snap that went past Bray and almost went into the end zone. That honestly might be enough to lock him out of the 53-man roster, as crazy as it sounds. Players in his situation can’t afford to make those plays at all.
  • Undrafted free agent defensive lineman Cavon Walker had a solid outing. He finished with two tackles and half of a sack, and he got into the backfield a handful of times to pressure the quarterback.
  • Fifth-round pick Bilal Nichols joined the fun with a sack of his own in the fourth quarter. He also had a handful of good plays against the run. It’s great to see all of these young rookies in the front seven making plays so early in the preseason.
  • Tanner Gentry caught a pass that was initially called a touchdown, but the play was reversed since his knee was down. He followed that play up just three plays later with a ten-yard touchdown that was actually called for a touchdown. Last year’s training camp darling finished the night with three catches for 19 yards.
  • Bray was able to identify the blitz on Chicago’s late fourth-down conversion and hit Javon Wims on the slant in one-on-one coverage. It was a good read by Bray and a nice catch by Wims, too.
  • The Bears went for a two-point conversion to try and pick up the win, but Bray was unable to find the open man - Michael Burton, in this case - in time. I don’t necessarily hate the decision, since overtime in the preseason isn’t needed, but the execution on Bray’s part was rough.
  • Nothing like a Tyler Bray two-minute drill in the first football game of the year. I love football.
  • That two-minute drill went as well as one would imagine it to.
  • Overall, it wasn’t a bad first game for the Bears. Their pass rush was much better than expected - they ended up with eight sacks - and a lot of their young players made big plays. Javon Wims managed to stand out on offense, but the offense wasn’t very impressive as a whole. The starting offense will be far less conservative than the unit that the Bears brought out last night, so this game wasn’t necessarily an indication of how the offense will do. It didn’t end up as a win, but having some football is better than having no football at the end of the day.

With their first preseason game in the books, the Bears will look ahead to next Thursday, when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals on the road at 6 p.m. CT.

Jacob Infante is a Chicago Bears writer at SB Nation’s Windy City Gridiron. He is also an NFL Draft writer at USA Today SMG’s Draft Wire. He can be reached through Twitter @jacobinfante24 or emailed at jacobinfante1208@gmail.com.