Film Study: Bears stopped producing after losing TE Zach Miller

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Bears tight end Zach Miller celebrates with wide receiver Josh Bellamy (11) and center Cody Whitehair (65) after scoring a touchdown against the Giants on
Sunday (Seth Wenig/AP)

Thoughts and observations after watching the film of the Bears’ 22-16 loss Sunday against the Giants in Week 11.

Miller was missed

The second half was a bad one for the Bears’ offense, and the main reason was the loss of tight end Zach Miller. The offense changed after Miller broke his right foot.

Miller was injured on the third-to-last play of the second quarter. He helped right tackle Mike Adams with a chip block on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul on a third-and-20 play, which turned into four-yard reception for running back Jeremy Langford.

Miller released his block and tried to run a route, but Pierre-Paul stepped on Miller’s left foot. With his foot trapped, Miller awkwardly planted his right foot and fell.

As the Bears’ leading receiver, Miller was a mismatch for the Giants’ linebackers. All three of his catches, including his 19-yard touchdown, came against linebackers.

Without Miller, Jay Cutler struggled. He was 11-for-14 in the first half for 126 yards and a 128.0 passer rating. His incomplete passes came on a throwaway, a tipped throw and his improvised pitch to running back Jordan Howard.

In the second half, Cutler completed six of 16 passes. According to the official stats, Cutler attempted one pass to No. 2 tight end Logan Paulsen, but it was an underthrown ball to wide receiver Cameron Meredith that seemed to slip from his grasp. Paulsen was the closest to it.

“[The loss of Miller] affected the game tremendously,” Giants safety Landon Collins said. “That is a great tight end. He is a fantastic player. [Cutler] didn’t have that many people to go to.”

Rookie tight end Ben Braunecker, an undrafted free agent who started the season on the practice squad, played a season-high 30 snaps with Miller out.

Running with Miller

Miller is valued for his pass-catching, but he also has improved as a blocker. Miller cut off Pierre-Paul to open a huge hole for Howard on his 27-yard run in the second quarter.

Without Miller, the Giants sold out to stop Howard. All five of Howard’s carries in the second half came with eight or nine players on or near the line of scrimmage.

“There are things that dictate whether you run or pass,” coach John Fox said. “When people load the box, and it’s an eight- or nine-man front, it’s not conducive [to running].”

Secondary slipup

Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard’s 15-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter, which broke a 16-16 tie, was the result of miscues in the secondary.

Nickel back Demontre Hurst jumped Shepard’s crossing route, but it was a fake as Shepard cut up the field in the seam and into an area that rookie safety Deon Bush had vacated.

“He had a double move, and I think [it] killed [Hurst],” quarterback Eli Manning said. “The guy was still running the shallow route, thinking that’s what he’s running.”

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