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Snap Judgment: Bears WR Anthony Miller maxes out increased playing time

Matt Nagy trusted his gut, and it paid off. A look at Miller’s game and other observations from the Bears’ playing time distribution against the Lions.

Miller caught nine passes for 140 yards to help beat the Lions 24-20 on Thanksgiving.
AP Photos

Bears coach Matt Nagy talks often about trusting his instincts, and his hunch that wide receiver Anthony Miller was ready to get serious proved right.

Miller had a career day in the 24-20 win over the Lions, catching nine passes for 140 yards. He also played a season-high 86 percent of the offensive snaps, which was a product of trust earned and the absence of Taylor Gabriel because of a concussion.

As for the rest of the receiver corps, Allen Robinson carried his usual heavy load and went 92 percent of the plays, Javon Wims was in for 89 percent and the highly anticipated debut of Riley Ridley lasted just four plays (6 percent).

Wims was a mixed bag. He had two brutal penalties, but set career highs with five catches for 56 yards.

Here’s a look at what else can be learned from the Bears’ snap counts against the Lions:

Holtz leads tight ends

Jesper Horsted, one of the heroes of the game, actually played very little. He was on the field for the opening play, getting his first career start, but got just seven snaps total.

Nagy went with J.P. Holtz, an in-season pickup after being cut by Washington in September, for 45 percent of the offensive plays. Some of those were at fullback, where Holtz plays when the Bears go to their I-formation.

Bradley Sowell, playing for just the fourth time this season, got eight snaps.

Reenergized Roquan

Early in the season, before his mysterious exit in Week 4, Roquan Smith was playing nearly every snap. There was a lull when he returned, but he’s been progressing lately and is clearly back to normal.

Smith went all 76 snaps Thursday, logging perfect attendance for the second straight game — something he hadn’t done since Week 2 — and the Bears were grateful for it. He had a career-best 15 tackles and two sacks, becoming the first NFL player to hit those numbers in a game since Cincinnati’s Vincent Rey (15 tackles, three sacks) in 2013.

Some surprises

Nothing major, but here are a few unexpected blips and oddities from the game:

-- Rookie offensive lineman Alex Bars made his NFL debut by taking one snap at left tackle when Charles Leno had an apparent shoe problem. Leno had played 99.9 percent of the Bears’ offensive snaps heading into the game.

-- Cornerback Prince Amukamara missed one play after being shaken up on a pass breakup. That’s a rarity. He played 98.9 percent of the defensive snaps before the Lions game.

-- Defensive end Brent Urban, who the Bears signed after Tennessee cut him last month, played 26 percent of the snaps coming off a week when he got just 15 percent in a win over the Giants.

-- Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (71 defensive snaps, eight special teams snaps), cornerback Kyle Fuller (76, five), cornerback Buster Skrine (56, nine) and defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris (38, 11) pulled significant double-duty.