CANTON, Ohio – With most of their key players watching from the sideline, it will be difficult if not impossible for the Bears to draw any meaningful conclusions from Thursday night's preseason-opening Hall of Fame Game.
But there were certainly several positives in a 17-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, especially for a team that's determined to generate more touchdowns and takeaways this season.
The Bears produced one of each early as safety DeAndre Houston-Carson's interception set up Chase Daniel's 4-yard TD pass to fullback Michael Burton.
In addition to the takeaway, the defense also recorded five sacks in the first half alone, one each by young pass rushers Isaiah Irving, Roy Robertson-Harris, Jonathan Bullard, Kylie Fitts and Nick Williams. The unit added three more sacks in the second half.
"I thought our defense played really well," said coach Matt Nagy. "They had a bunch of sacks, which changes field position, which was really neat to see. They'll keep growing there."
Another bright spot was the performance of rookie seventh-round receiver Javon Wims, who caught seven passes for 89 yards, all in the second half.
On the negative side, the Bears committed four turnovers in the game and mustered just 91 yards and six first downs in the first half.
"Offensively, there's going to be some growing pains," Nagy said. "We have some guys right now that are going through this for the first time and they have a lot of different responsibilities with protections and with route assignments and conversions.
"Baltimore did a good job of throwing a lot of stuff at us and doing different things, which is good for our guys. We'll learn. They'll be able to see where their mistakes are and let's come back next week and not make the same mistakes."
Burton's touchdown, which gave the Bears a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter, came after Houston-Carson dove to pick off a Robert Griffin III pass after it had been deflected twice, first by Ravens receiver Breshad Perriman and then by Bears cornerback Michael Joseph.
Houston-Carson's interception came after Daniel had been picked off by safety Chuck Clark on the game's first possession.
The Ravens tied the score 7-7 on Griffin's 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Maxx Williams, who beat linebacker John Timu with 4:00 left in the first quarter.
On the Bears' next play from scrimmage, Daniel's pass over the middle was intercepted by linebacker Kamalei Correa, who returned it 15 yards to the Chicago 9.
Irving sacked Griffin on third-and-goal from the 5, forcing the Ravens to settle for Kaare Vedvik's 31-yard field goal, which gave Baltimore a 10-7 lead late in the opening period.
Playing the first half, Daniel completed 8 of 16 passes for 53 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and a 38.8 passer rating. In the second half, Tyler Bray connected in 18 of 34 passes for 181 yards with 1 TD and a 78.2 passer rating.
The Bears committed their third turnover of the game early in the third quarter when safety DeShon Elliott stripped receiver Demarcus Ayers after a 6-yard reception from Bray and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi recovered the fumble at the Chicago 36.
Baltimore converted the takeaway into Lamar Jackson's 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Hayden Hurst, widening the margin to 17-7 with 9:09 left in the third quarter.
Cody Parkey's 22-yard field goal drew the Bears to within 17-10 with 13:24 remaining in the fourth quarter, capping an eight-play, 48-yard drive.
The Bears drew to within 17-16 on Bray's 10-yard touchdown pass to Tanner Gentry with 2:44 left in the fourth quarter. But Bray's pass on the subsequent two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete, enabling the Ravens to escape with a one-point victory.
"I certainly feel like we got better," Nagy said. "The arrow's up for us. It wasn't one of those deals where we came out just totally unprepared, unenergetic where the guys didn't care. There was a lot of ‘want.' The guys did well. We definitely took a step in the right direction, and now for us we just hone in on our weaknesses as an organization, as a team, as players, and they'll do that."