Football made its triumphant return Thursday night during the Baltimore Ravens' 17-16 victory over the Chicago Bears. While the game was lean on starters (Mitch Trubisky and Joe Flacco sat this one out), there were still plenty of takeaways and one highly anticipated debut at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
1. Showcasing the array of skills that made him a Heisman Trophy winner and a first-round draft pick, Lamar Jackson didn't divert from the widely held prognostication that he'll be backing up Flacco at the start of the season.
The NFL world didn't get the Dak Prescott-like preseason debut some might have been hoping for from Jackson -- the former Heisman Trophy winner made some mistakes in what was a very trademark rookie performance. He finished the game connecting on 4 of 10 passes for 33 yards, a TD and an interception. He also rushed for 25 yards on eight carries.
Jackson, predictably, looked very comfortable running the ball. One of his first plays featured him deking and juking for a few yards with moves straight out of the 2012 Robert Griffin III playbook.
Throwing the ball was another matter. His 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Hayden Hurst was perfect, but he struggled to hit receivers outside the numbers, especially on longer throws. He went three-and-out on two drives and was picked off on a great read by Bears cornerback Doran Grant that was a poor-decision throw.
Bears coach Matt Nagy utilized plenty of blitzes and rushes from the corners to put pressure on Jackson, and it was typically effective in keeping the dynamic rookie from making much of an impact.
"Everybody kind of has these expectations that they're going to see fireworks," coach John Harbaugh said after the game. "I think that he played well. The first task we gave him was to operate the offense, and he did. He got the plays called, he got people lined up, he got snap counts off -- and, you know, that stuff gets taken for granted.
"He's a rookie quarterback out there for the first time handling the whole offense. I thought he did a very good job, and that's what I asked him to do today. ... I thought he handled himself well."
Jackson was upbeat about his first game. "I thought it was pretty good," he told NFL Network's Steve Wyche. "I scored a touchdown. It's hard to score in the NFL."
Hall of Fame Game performances are an incredibly difficult -- and ultimately unfair -- way to gauge how a rookie might perform in a real game. Jackson, however, will be aiming for a better performance against the Rams next week. Based on the limited sample we saw Thursday, Flacco's job remains very safe.
2. Griffin showed glimmers of the skills that once made him one of the NFL's most dynamic players despite not playing against NFL competition in more than 18 months. Memories of Griffin's one-time outstanding play might be fading, but Griffin threw the ball with surgical precision in his limited time in the first half.
Griffin showed a level of mobility and composure in completing 7 of 11 passes for 58 yards and a touchdown in his start for the Ravens. It was definitely an encouraging performance from a quarterback trying to reboot his career even if it came from a relatively small sample size.
Whether it was enough to assist Griffin in his mammoth task of eventually wrestling the No. 2 QB job away from Jackson, however, seems unlikely.
Still, Daniel's struggles Thursday illustrated how Trubisky's success is critical for the team this season. Daniel put in an inconsistent performance, completing 8 of 16 passes for 53 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Tyler Bray, who's expected to be the Bears' No. 3 quarterback fared better, even if he wasn't able to mount a complete Chicago comeback in the fourth quarter. He finished with 181 yards and a TD on 18-of-34 passing. Decent numbers considering Allen Robinson, Tarik Cohen, Jordan Howard, Kevin White and Taylor Gabriel were among those who didn't play.
"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 ... we'll learn and we'll where our mistakes are and let's come back next week and not make the same mistakes."
While it was an inconsistent performance by the Bears' offense in Nagy's debut, the former Chiefs offensive guru wasn't lured to Chicago to make sense of the team's backup QB situation. Nagy's top priority is to make Trubisky a bona fide NFL starter, and until the second-year signal-caller is under center, it'll be difficult to measure what progress the Bears are making in clawing out of the NFC North cellar.
4. Ravens linebacker Kamalei Correa struggled in 2017 and entered training camp last month in danger of potentially losing his roster spot. Against the Bears, he looked very much like the player that could play alongside C.J. Mosley and cause sleepless nights for AFC North quarterbacks.
Correa had three sacks, six tackles, a forced fumble and an interception in an impressive performance that likely will go a long way in keeping him on the team in 2018. His instinctive, aggressive play caused plenty of problems for the Bears' offense, and illustrated why the Ravens don't want to give up on their 2016 second-round pick out of Boise State.
"It was just great to see him break out," Harbaugh said. "This young man has been killing himself -- work ethic, attention to detail, very determined. To see it pay off like that, the coach loves to see that."
5. Correa also had the distinction of drawing the first penalty under the league's expanded helmet rules when he lowered his helmet while making contact with a Bears wide receiver. He was one of three Ravens to be flagged for a helmet violations. Over the next month, NFL officials and referees will be working with players to ensure they have a clear understanding of the new rules.
"I don't know enough about the rule to understand it right now and comment on it," Harbaugh said when asked about why his players were flagged for helmet violations.