Slow out of the gate

The Bears have been outscored in the first quarter this season 43-3 and in the first half 98-29. That's one of the main reasons that opponents have been able to pound the ball on the ground against them. More important, it's why opponents don't have to take chances on offense, which leaves the Bears' defense with few opportunities for turnovers.

"It's not good," Coach Dick Jauron said when asked about his team's slow starts. "We certainly talk about it every week. We try to change things up in every which way to get a faster start, and we just haven't been able to do it."

No team in the NFL has fewer sacks than the Bears' four, and they had none against the Saints. Defensive end Phillip Daniels, who has 1 of the Bears' sacks, said it's difficult to get to the quarterback when the opponent is sitting on a lead and doesn't have to pass. And, with the Bears allowing an average of 168.5 yards per game on the ground, second worst in the league, there has been no need for opponents to abandon the running game.

"We haven't had a lead," Daniels said. "Teams that get all the sacks, their offense usually scores a lot of points, or their defense stops the run. We haven't stopped the run, and we haven't had a big lead on a team yet. That's what's hard on us. And, if we don't stop the run, it's going to always be hard for us (to get a pass rush)."

Just as everyone else has, the Saints ran successfully on the Bears. But they needed 34 carries to accumulate 130 yards, and their average gain of 3.8 yards was below the NFL average of 4.1.

Even though they trailed the Saints 6-3 at halftime on Sunday, that was the closest the Bears have been all season at intermission.

"The only good news was the fact that (although) we got off to a slow start, they didn't run away from us," Jauron said. "So we weren't trying to dig ourselves out of a huge hole at halftime."

But the Saints game brought up another recurring failure of the 2003 Bears: the inability of the defense to come up with a critical stop when the game is on the line.

The Bears closed within 13-6 early in the fourth quarter on a 62-yard drive that ended with Paul Edinger's 31-yard field goal. The defense promptly let New Orleans march 70 yards to a touchdown and a 20-6 advantage. The offense countered with another TD, but the defense allowed Deuce McAllister to run for eight yards on a third-and-six play that let the Saints run out the clock.

Two weeks earlier, the Bears cut their deficit against the Packers to 24-16 with 12:36 left in the game. But the defense couldn't stop a 70-yard TD drive that re-established the 15-point margin.

In the season opener, the Bears crept back into the Vikings game and trailed 17-13 and had Minnesota backed up at its seven-yard line. But the Vikings sailed through the Bears defense for a touchdown, going 93 yards on 16 plays.

"It's disappointing," Daniels said. "You keep the score down, and you're in it 'til the end, and you've battled the whole game and done a lot of good things. And then at the end, the one play that you need to stop them and get the ball back for the offense, you can't do it.

"The one drive at the end of the game is killing us."

And the slow starts aren't helping any.

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