By Nate Johnson
Going four years without a touchdown probably makes an NFL player want to get a crack at the end zone. Bears tight end Zach Miller has gotten that, and then some.
After pulling in the game-winning TD last Monday against the Chargers, Miller crossed the goal line twice more on Sunday in St. Louis as the Bears won on the road for the second straight week, beating the Rams 37-13.
“I think we probably clicked as well as we have all season long,” head coach John Fox said Monday, “in a short week, on the road, against an NFC opponent, which we hadn’t done yet. From that standpoint, it’s gratifying after the fact.”
Miller’s 87-yard reception on the second offensive play of the game was the longest by a tight end in the league since 2006, and he added a two-yard score in the second quarter.
Miller didn’t have the offensive spotlight to himself. Rookie running back Jeremy Langford matched last week’s coming out party, tallying 182 all-purpose yards and scoring twice. Jay Cutler continued a solid stretch of quarterback play, throwing for three touchdowns and not turning the ball over while posting the highest single-game quarterback rating of his career. And kicker Robbie Gould snapped out of his recent funk, hitting on all three field goal attempts and all four extra points.
“I don’t feel like I did that much,” Cutler said. “The offensive line did a great job controlling the ball in the second half. Some guys on the outside made some plays. Against a front like that and a secondary like that, very rarely are you going to get some ‘chunk’ plays like that.”
With Langford going for 83 yards on his receiving touchdown and Miller’s long scoring play, Sunday’s outing marked the first time in Bears team history that they put up multiple 80-plus yard touchdowns in a game.
The afternoon started on an ominous note as the Rams took the opening kick straight down the field, covering 80 yards in less than three minutes. Rookie standout Todd Gurley did the bulk of the damage, picking up 51 total yards on the drive and staking the Rams to a quick 7-0 lead on a 6-yard touchdown run.
“The first drive we couldn’t stop the run,” defensive end Jarvis Jenkins told chicagobears.com.”I got cut out of my gap a couple times. They got a couple double teams. They ran right off of us. [After the first possession] we were like, ‘If we’re going to win this game, we’ve got to stop the run as an interior. So we started hitting blocks, playing square like we’re supposed to, making them bounce it out and all the outside guys were making plays.”
The Bears would not be daunted by the early deficit. The scoring pass to Miller immediately knotted the game, but a fumbled punt return by Marc Mariani nearly gave the Rams a chance to regain the momentum. St. Louis was only able to get a field goal off the turnover deep in Chicago territory, and the Bears held them to just three points over the remainder of the game.
“They give you a variety of looks, a lot of pressure packages,” Fox said. “To get us in and out of plays is very critical. He studies extremely hard to get that done. Our offensive staff has done a terrific job of managing that and he’s done a great job responding to it.”
The win continues a solid non-division run for the Bears, as they have allowed just over 16 points per game through a 4-2 run against non-divisional opponents. They have the opportunity to even their season record at 5-5 as they welcome the Denver Broncos to Soldier Field. The Broncos will be without quarterback Peyton Manning, who left Sunday’s game against Kansas City with a foot injury after breaking Brett Favre’s career passing yards record.