When Zach Miller was carted off the field following his gruesome knee injury during the Bears-Saints game, it was tough to watch because it defined Miller’s career with the Bears in a nutshell.
He sustained a serious injury after making a terrific catch even though it was called back on a terrible officiating call. Throughout the tight end’s NFL career, injuries have hampered what should have been a very talented and long-lasting career.
Miller signed with Bears in 2014 and was one of three players signed by then Phil Emery regime to still be on the current Bears roster. He received a big break following the infamous Martellus Bennett and Kyle Fuller training camp fight as he was named the starting tight end for the Bears first pre-season game that year.
Against the Eagles in that game, he caught two touchdown passes from Jay Cutler and finished the game with six catches for 68 yards. Sadly, just a week later though, Miller injured his foot and was placed on injured reserve ending his season even before starting.
In 2015, he was able to make the Bears roster overcoming a change in the coaching and front office personnel along with his extensive injury history. This would be Miller’s breakout season as he received more looks on the field as the season went on. In the Week 3 game against the Seattle Seahawks which feature little offensive output from the Bears, Miller recorded the longest play of the game for the Bears as he caught a 24-yard pass from backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen.
It would be a few games later when Miller would have his biggest catch of his career and as a Bear in front of a National audience against the San Diego Chargers.
On a Monday Night game, the Bears trailed the Chargers late in the fourth quarter down 19-14. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler rifled a pass over the middle to Miller who made a one-handed circus catch to score a 25-yard touchdown giving the Bears a 22-19 lead and eventually the win.
Miller would follow that game up with another outstanding performance against Rams the next week catching five passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns including an 87-yard touchdown. Down the stretch he was the Bears starting tight end after the loss of Martellus Bennett to injury. Miller finished the 2015 campaign with 34 catches for 439 yards and 5 touchdown catches.
The Bears re-signed Miller in the offseason and made him the team’s starting tight end for the 2016 season.
He became the Bears second best weapon in the passing game behind wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. With inconsistency at the quarterback position all season, He was able to have a respectable season with 47 catches for 486 yards and four touchdowns.
Against the Giants in week 11, Miller was seen as the Bears number one passing option with Jeffery suspended for four games. He was on his way to having his best game of the season as he hauled in three passes for 61 yards and a touchdown. Mid-way through the second quarter though, Miller was lost for the season as he suffered a broken foot during a block.
Before the Miller injury, the Bears scored 16 points on their first three drives, but after the injury the team was held scoreless for the rest of the game.
Heading into this season, there were questions about whether or not Miller would make the team due to his injury history and the depth at the tight end position. He received little playing time during the preseason, but came on strong during the regular season.
Since Week 3 game against Pittsburgh to this past week’s game against the Saints, Miller was the only Bears player to catch a pass of 17 yards are more in each of those games.
When Mitchell Trubisky was named the starter in week five, Miller has the Bears best option in the passing game recording two touchdowns and three plays over 20 yards or more in Trubisky’s four games. Miller should have had a third touchdown catch if not for the terrible overrule by NFL officials.
Miller’s loss won’t just be felt on the field, but off the field as well as he was considered a great guy in the locker room and by the media as well. Not many tight ends in the NFL stay with a team or city long enough to become such a presence Miller has turned himself into. Although not considered one of the best, Miller worked his way to overcome many injuries to have his name become a noticeable one for his performance on the field.
The dislocated knee injury suffered will be the toughest Miller will come back from if he chooses to return to the football field. If he chooses not to return, he will have established himself as one of the more memorable tight ends the Bears have had. He will have had a decent NFL career and that is an accomplishment for a player who missed three full seasons of football due to injuries. The loss of Miller is hard for the Bears and their city, but if there is a silver lining, he now has team and city to call his own.