As trainers were preparing Zach Miller for the injury cart, the replay on the video board elicited murmurs and groans of sympathy pain from the crowd at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
On third-and-10 from the Saints’ 25-yard line, Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky launched the football into the end zone, where Miller had a step on Saints safety Rafael Bush. As Miller attempted to haul in the ball, his right foot hit the ground first and his left leg followed, bending gruesomely the wrong way as he tumbled.
As he sat up, Miller’s left hand immediately found his left knee. The knee was later diagnosed as dislocated at a New Orleans hospital, coach John Fox announced after the Bears’ 20-12 loss.
On top of losing a player who has 20 catches for 236 yards and two touchdowns this season, the play came with another blow to the Bears. Officials originally ruled Miller had made a touchdown
catch, which would have cut the Saints’ third-quarter lead to 14-10.
But they overturned the call upon review, and the Bears settled for Connor Barth’s 44-yard field goal to make it 14-6.
Trubisky said it was tough to come back emotionally from such a chain of events, though the Bears had a shot to do so thanks to a pair of takeaways from the defense.
“Zach means a lot to this team beyond the X’s and O’s and what he brings to the field but what he brings to us as a person,” Trubisky said. “Specifically how much he has helped me grow in this process. You never want to see a teammate go down like that.”
As for the overturned call, Fox opted not to criticize the officials in his postgame news conference and potentially be fined, saying it “doesn’t really matter what I think.”
Trubisky said he was “pretty surprised” and added he didn’t see any evidence the ball hit the ground during the play. Miller did let go of the ball as he squirmed in pain, but that seemingly was after the play was completed.
“It looked like a regular, everyday touchdown to me,” said Bears wide receiver Tre McBride, who was among the first to get to Miller after the play. “I didn’t see no bobble. It looked like he had control of it in his arm, even after his knee gave out.”
Referee Carl Cheffers told a pool reporter Miller did not complete the process of the catch.
“When he goes to the ground, he has to survive the ground,” Cheffers said. “He went to the ground, and he temporarily lost control of the ball. The ball hit the ground. Therefore, it’s incomplete.”
The injury was another tough break for Miller, who missed the final six games of the 2016 season with a broken right foot. And it’s also bad for the Bears, who beyond losing a player Fox called “a great teammate” lost a receiving option from an already thin group.
“It’s brutal, gruesome,” Bears right guard Kyle Long said. “I didn’t watch it after I saw it the first time. To go from the elation of, ‘What a play, what a throw!’ in that situation of the game to overturn (the touchdown call) and Zach obviously being injured … it’s really unfortunate. We lost a really good guy today.”
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