LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) -The way Lance Briggs sees it, the Chicago Bears could avoid another late collapse on defense by following one simple strategy.
Start slowly.
``We've been doing well at the beginning of the games. Maybe if we don't do so well at the beginning of the games we'll pick it up in the fourth quarter,'' Briggs said with a straight face.
Then, the Pro Bowl linebacker burst into a big grin. The truth is he can't explain what's been happening.
``There's no real answer for it,'' he said, laughing.
He's certainly not advocating a slow start, and Briggs realizes what's happened lately is no laughing matter for the Bears.
Chicago vowed to contend in the NFC behind a healthy defense, but back-to-back meltdowns against Carolina and Tampa Bay left the Bears (1-2) staggering into this week's game against Philadelphia (2-1). They blew a 14-point lead in a 20-17 loss to the Panthers and saw a 10-point advantage disappear in the closing minutes of regulation before losing 27-24 in overtime to the Buccaneers.
couldn't come up with key stops and were unable to sack Brian Griese even though he attempted a franchise-record 67 passes.
They watched as Tampa Bay converted 6 of 16 third downs and ran 84 plays on offense - 10 more than Chicago. Fatigue hit, and several breakdowns did in Chicago.
Charles Tillman got called for unnecessary roughness on a third down that kept alive the winning field goal drive, and Nathan Vasher got beat on a 38-yard pass a few plays later. On the previous drive, Rashied Davis dropped a pass that would have put Chicago in field goal range.
As alarming as those mistakes was the inability to pressure Griese. Now, the Bears are facing the more mobile Donovan McNabb, who appears to be back to his old form for the Eagles after being limited last season following knee surgery.
``He's on top of his game,'' Bears defensive coordinator Bob Babich said. ``He's just a very good player. If you do get near him and get an opportunity to tackle him, he's a big, strong guy. He breaks a lot of tackles. He's mobile. He does a lot of different things that can hurt a defense.''
In other words: He's tough to sack.
And if the Bears couldn't get to Griese, can they take down McNabb?
1, but it's a bad sign when a free safety and cornerback lead the team.
It usually means the front is not doing its job, and the Bears expected to get more for their money after signing Briggs to a six-year deal in the offseason and giving Tommie Harris, Alex Brown and Brian Urlacher extensions.
``I don't know,'' defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. ``They did a good job of chipping, which we're gonna see a lot this week. You didn't see a lot of guys having free rushes on the quarterback. They were very quick passes. They were getting the ball off quick. We were blitzing, guys were hitting him, but the balls were coming off quick. There are going to be games like that when you play West Coast offenses, which we're going to see this week.''
The Bears' defense now ranks 18th overall, 28th against the pass, and has just five sacks.
``It's frustrating,'' defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek said. ``As a front, each one of us takes pride in getting to the quarterback, and when he drops back that many times, it's disappointing. We've got to do a better job. We've got to get to him and make him make mistakes.''
To that end, Briggs tried to take some comfort in the fact that the Bears intercepted Griese three times, and he dismissed the idea that quarterbacks have them figured out.
is we're doing, it's effective. We just have to make it be effective for a whole 60 minutes or more.''
Notes: Pro Bowl kick returner Devin Hester returned to practice on a limited basis but still isn't sure if he'll play Sunday after missing last week's game. ``I'm pushing for it,'' he said. ``I'm still sore.'' ... WR Brandon Lloyd sat out practice with a hip injury, and DE Alex Brown (ankle), DT Tommie Harris (knee), CB Nathan Vasher (shoulder) and LT Chris Williams (back) practiced on a limited basis.

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