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BillyCarpenter1 10-09-2003 08:16 AM

Saints look to improve team's bad beginnings

FALSE START: Saints look to improve team's bad beginnings

Thursday October 09, 2003

By Brian Allee-Walsh
Staff writer

Saints offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy is searching for ways to jump-start an offense that has struggled in the first quarter this season.


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-- The offense has produced 10 points in the opening quarter of the first five games, or one point for every 7 ½ minutes.

-- It has not scored on its five opening possessions this season, continuing a disturbing offensive trend under Coach Jim Haslett.

r In 53 regular-season games since 2000, the Saints have scored only five touchdowns on their opening possession, only once in their past 21 games. That touchdown came against the San Francisco 49ers in Game 7 last season. Deuce McAllister caught a 4-yard scoring pass from quarterback Aaron Brooks.

McCarthy hopes to change his unit's first-possession blahs, beginning Sunday against the Chicago Bears at the Superdome.

"We have not started fast since I've been here," McCarthy said Wednesday. "It's something we've addressed, but we haven't accomplished it. Obviously, it's an area we need to do better.

"We addressed it this morning in depth in our offensive meeting. We actually went through every play, every first series of the first five games. Our emphasis this week is going to be start fast, play with urgency and we've got to get on the board right away. That would be the best thing for our team right now."

McCarthy discovered a common denominator on their first five possessions against Seattle, Houston, Tennessee, Indianapolis and Carolina.

"We had self-inflicted wounds; quarterback pressures, dropped balls, penalties, things that you can attribute to yourself," McCarthy said. "Of the first five series, only once did we give credit to the defense. We credited Tennessee for stopping us. But in the other four games, we stopped ourselves."

Brooks said he is not concerned by his team's inability to score early.

"Does it mean we're not prepared or not ready to play? No, it just means the defense is ready to play," Brooks said. "The whole thing is overblown. Most games are won in the last minute of the game anyway, whether you jump out in front or not.

"A prime example was Monday night. Tampa Bay went up 21-0 and Indianapolis came back to win, so whether the (Colts) scored on the first drive or not didn't mean anything. What counts is how well you play in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line."

Saints right guard LeCharles Bentley said the coaching staff is trying to emphasize the importance of the offense getting off to a productive start against the Bears.

"Usually that first series you try to chill out and see what's going on," Bentley said. "But we've got to put some points on the board. We've got so many weapons we should be able to score a lot, quite frankly. So there's no reason why we shouldn't be scoring more."

Each game, McCarthy scripts the first 17 offensive plays -- "those are my best first- and second-down thoughts," he said -- and he sees no reason to deviate from that plan.

"Any time there's a problem we evaluate it," McCarthy said. "If I need to change I'd change it. But I don't think the 17 plays are inhibiting us at all.

"I think what happens is there's such a fine line in this business of producing and not producing and we've got to close that small gap. The Carolina game is a perfect example of it. We did so many positive things. Then you get done watching the film, and say, 'Holy cow! We only scored 13 points.' That's a hard game to raise hell with your players afterward.

"But we're going to stay aggressive in our approach because it fits the style of players that we have. We're going to keep doing what we're doing, we've just got to do it better."

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Brian Allee-Walsh can be reached at or (504) 826-3805.

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