THE MORNING AFTER: Bears TE Zach Miller is a true “Captain Comeback”
SAN DIEGO – Do you dare assign him the moniker “Captain Comeback?”
Go right ahead.
In 2015 Jay Cutler has thrice lead his team on fourth quarter, game-winning drives. There was the one against the Raiders in Week 4 then seven days later in Kansas City. The first led to a clinching field-goal by Robbie Gould while the quarterback hit Matt Forte for a touchdown the next week to seal a win over the Chiefs.
It’s the 13th, 14th and 15th fourth quarter comeback for a win in Cutler’s tenure in Chicago. The began in 2009 and since that season he is the NFL leader in that category.
“I think it says a lot about the guy and how he responded in the second half,” said Bears head coach John Fox of Cutler, who came back from a first quarter fumble and second quarter pick six to lead his team to a 22-19 victory over the Chargers on Monday night. “It’s been what we’ve seen as coaches for most of the season and I’m excited for the guy because he’s done a great job.”
Down the stretch he certainly did.
Cutler led the Bears on a 15-play, 93 yard drive to get the Bears within striking distance early in the fourth quarter. When he got the ball back he then led another 80-yard march and threw the eventual game-winning score. It was all apart of his 27-of-40, 354 yard throwing performance with a pair of touchdown tosses.
In the process, he became the Bears’ All-Time touchdown pass leader as his 138th and 139th put him ahead of Sid Luckman in the record books.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to win the fourth quarter. We’ve lost a games in the fourth quarter, we’ve won a few in the fourth quarter,” said Cutler. “It’s what the NFL is all about. You’ve got to play your best in the fourth quarter.”
He wasn’t the only one who did. Zach Miller brought his best on that final play of the game-winning drive when he stuck his left arm in the air and pulled it in while falling in the endzone for his first score of the year.
“I just had to get to the spot where the throw was going to be made. I didn’t want to push to wide and lose leverage the safety,” said Miller of that play. “Jay made a great throw. I just had to go get it and after that I went unconscious.”
Most of the NFL and their fans did not.
The highlight is one of the top moments of Week 9 play and in many ways makes him the face of this latest Bears’ comeback in 2015. But if you look at the bigger picture, Miller deserves to have the moniker of “Captain Comeback” as much as anyone.
When he snagged that throw from Cutler it was his first touchdown in the NFL since October 2, 2011 when he scored as a member of the Jaguars against the Saints at EverBank Field.
Since then he’s had to come back from a collection of injuries that made him a spectator for nearly four years. A nagging shoulder injury cost him most of the 2011 season and then an Achilles tear put him out the entire next year in Jacksonville. The same thing happened the next year when he joined the Buccaneers after suffering an early season concussion when he was injury-waived in the first half of the season.
In 2014 Miller showed promise in the preseason in Chicago but a Lisfranc injury once again ended his season before ever playing a down.
Such setbacks didn’t stop Miller who once again showed up for camp and managed to get through healthy and with a roster spot. Even so Miller’s time on the field was limited and opportunities short with just three targets through the first seven weeks of the season.
“It’s been a long three years,” admitted Miller. “It was over like almost 14-hundred….12-hundred days since I played in a regular season game. Injuries stacked up. 2011 I was on IR. 2012 I was on IR. ’13 get injury waived and last year in Chicago have the Lisfranc injury in the preseason.
“Those three years were a grind but I love this game and I love what comes with it. The friendships, the family life in the locker room and that’s what drives me.”
Maybe that’s why he caught a number of people off guard when he reached up and got the one hand on the quickly approaching Cutler pass, knocking it down just enough to corral it for the winning. Miller said it was “Instinct” that made him reach up to make that catch as the wall was starting to soar away from him.
As for the man who threw it, he believes it was poetic justice.
“It couldn’t happen to a better guy,” said Cutler. “He gives us everything he has everyday of practice. We ask him to do a lot of the dirty work and he does it without complaining. For him to come up with a big catch like that it’s something special.”
Perhaps enough for Jay to pass the “Captain Comeback” nickname to another for this week.