MILLER’S CAREER ‘VIRTUALLY’ OVER
Bears tight end needed emergency surgery to save his leg after gruesome knee injury
For starters, let’s start with the big news.
Upon gruesomely twisting and bending his left knee Sunday in a manner knees are not meant to be twisted and bent, while catching a potential touchdown pass at New Orleans, Zach Miller had to instinctively know his season was over.
While the dislocated knee injury looked horrible on video, it didn’t look limb threatening. Turns out it was. And probably career ending, too.
The Chicago Bears tight end underwent an emergency operation Sunday night. Vascular surgeons hurried to try to save Miller’s left leg and succeeded.
“Immediate evaluation from our medical team on site rushed him to nearby University Medical Center New Orleans (UMC) for urgent vascular surgery to repair a torn popliteal artery,” the Bears statement said.
The popliteal is a continuation of the main artery through which the heart pumps blood to the lower leg.
The surgery proved successful, the Bears said, as surgeons were able to “stabilize” the injury.
“Zach remains at UMC, along with Bears medical personnel, where he will stay under further evaluation,” the club said.
Although the club did not provide any career prognostication for Miller, former longtime NFL team doctor and surgeon David Chao offered the following assessment about Miller in a column Monday on the San Diego Union-Tribune website: “His medical issues and need for further surgery is not over, but his NFL career undoubtedly is. A knee dislocation this severe is, fortunately, a relatively rare occurrence. And it is virtually impossible to return from.”
Chao supported that assessment by saying Miller’s knee had to be far out of place to tear the popliteal artery, which is behind the knee.
“Blood flow needs to be restored within hours,” Chao wrote, “and the surgery sometimes takes several hours. Thus, the Bears medical staff with the co-operation of the Saints doctors should be applauded.”
Blood flow not restored within six hours can cause permanent muscle damage or even amputation, Chao said. Beyond the short term, Miller still faces a “series of other issues and surgeries,” Chao wrote. They, too, are serious.
This is Miller’s sixth year in the NFL — three with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the past three with the Bears.
TRENDS, NOT COINCIDENCES It happened again, so it probably will happen again.
1. In his last four games, rookie phenom Deshaun Watson has thrown 16 touchdowns and completed on average 64 per cent of his throws for 1,171 yards against five interceptions, giving him a glorious passer rating of 116.0. After ripping apart Seattle’s proud defence for 402 yards passing and a game-high 67 yards rushing, it’s clear the Houston Texans starter not only is far and away the most dynamic rookie quarterback this year, he’s one of the most instantly impactful this century. Pro Bowl Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman called Watson the best quarterback his team has faced this year.
2. The New Orleans Saints offence ranks first in net yards per pass play (7.7) and first in fewest sacks allowed (seven). Think about it. Those two stats seem at odds. How can a team allow the fewest sacks, but also average the longest gains on passes, when the longest pass plays take the most time to develop? Two words: Drew Brees.
3. The Los Angeles Rams don’t just have one of the NFL’s best punters in Johnny Hekker. This season they also have the most accurate placekicker and most reliably powerful kickoff man in Greg Zuerlein. Of those with a minimum of 15 field-goal attempts this season, the sixth-year pro has made 21 of 22 (95.5 per cent), including all seven from 40-49 yards out and all three from 50 or beyond. Zuerlein and his uncommonly strong right leg also lead the NFL in touchbacks on kickoffs with 36. Twenty-three kickers don’t even have 20 touchbacks.
HERO Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
With the Seahawks’ rushing attack having another disastrous day and Watson torching the Seahawks defence drive after drive, the sixth-year pro just put his team on his back and threw like crazy in a wild 41-38 defeat of the visiting Texans. Wilson threw for a career-high — and NFL season-high — 452 yards as part of his four-TD performance. His previous personal-best yardage total came just last month in a loss at Tennessee (373). More than that, with just over a minute remaining, Wilson drove the Seahawks 85 yards in three plays for the winning TD — a 48-yard completion to Paul Richardson, a 19-yarder to Tyler Lockett and an 18-yard screamer to tight end Jimmy Graham for the winning score with 21 seconds left.
ZERO Ndamukong Suh, DL, Dolphins
When tempers flare, Suh seems incapable of avoiding the fray to do the stupidest thing. Latest example? Last Thursday night, when during a mini-melee in Baltimore’s 40-0 win, Suh briefly choked Ravens QB Ryan Mallett. Reports said the NFL won’t suspend Suh. Not that it would have any deterring effect. Mallett got the last laugh, posting to Instagram: “I guess you could say we strangled” Suh and the Dolphins.
STOCK UP Carolina Panthers defence
After holding their first two foes without a touchdown (San Francisco and Buffalo), the Panthers struggled for four weeks. Understandable, considering they faced three of the NFL’s top offences over that stretch: New Orleans, New England and Philadelphia. Then a week ago the Panthers didn’t allow an offensive touchdown in a fluke loss at Chicago, then on Sunday held Tampa Bay to just a field goal in a 17-3 road victory. The Panthers defence is back on track. Four games of the first half of the season without allowing an offensive touchdown. Mighty impressive.
STOCK DOWN Jim Bob Cooter, Lions offensive co-ordinator
Since taking the reins of the Detroit attack at about midseason in 2015, Cooter instantly started getting the best out of QB Matthew Stafford. He might still be doing so, but the Lions’ inability to score in the red zone has become chronic. How does a team roll up 482 yards of offence against Pittsburgh’s stout defence, including 423 through the air from Stafford, yet fail to score a touchdown? The Lions lost at home Sunday to the Steelers 20-15 because Detroit failed so badly in the red zone.
EXPORTS, EH? Eye on Canada-connected NFLers
Tyrone Crawford of Windsor, Ont., had a monster game for the Dallas Cowboys in their 33-19 win at Washington. On top of registering a sack, four QB hits, a forced fumble and three tackles, the sixth-year DE made the game-turning play on special teams late in the second quarter with Washington up 13-7 and attempting a 36-yard field goal. Crawford blocked the kick and teammate Orlando Scandrick picked it up and raced 86 yards to the Redskins’ two-yard line. Two plays later, Ezekiel Elliott ran in for a Dallas TD and the Cowboys never trailed again.
Chicago Bears tight end Zach Miller is carted off the field after sustaining a severe knee injury Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Miller’s popliteal artery was severed in the process and his return to the NFL is “virtually impossible,” says surgeon David Chao.