NEW ORLEANS — Referee Carl Cheffers offered this explanation as to why Zach Miller’s third quarter touchdown was overturned in the Bears’ 20-12 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday:
“Obviously we are all familiar with the process of a catch at this point,” Cheffers said via pool reporter Herbie Teope of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “So we ruled that he was going to the ground as part of the process of the catch. So when he goes to the ground, he has to survive the ground. He went to the ground, he temporarily lost control of the ball. The ball hit the ground, therefore it’s incomplete. The ball hit the ground out of his control. So as part of the process of the catch, he did not complete that process, and therefore it was incomplete and they overturned the call on the field.
“… They are always close, but that process has been in place for some time now. So, that is what we ended up ruling.”
The replay of Miller’s catch is hard to watch, with the tight end’s left knee gruesomely snapping in the end zone turf (coach John Fox said the initial diagnosis is a dislocated knee, though he’ll continue to be evaluated in a hospital in the area). The issue is the play was ruled a touchdown on the field, and was overturned with seemingly spurious video evidence — at least what was made available on the television broadcast and at the Superdome. While Cheffers said everyone has a knowledge of what a catch is, it doesn’t seem like that’s the case — players, officials, fans, coaches included.
“It looked like a touchdown to me,” wide receiver Kendall Wright said.
Wright took issue with the Superdome showing the replay of Miller’s catch/non-catch — which included that stomach-churning injury — over and over again before, during and after he was carted off the field.
“I think it was really, really disrespectful of the Saints — I don’t care if they were challenging or not — I think it was really disrespectful to show that play on the replay screen more than five times,” Wright said. “I don’t know what you get out of that, and I’m sure I don’t know what other people — like, I’m sure people don’t want to look at that.”
The Bears were able to respond after the shock of having Miller’s touchdown taken away, but the loss of a veteran tight end and pillar of the locker room will be felt for much longer.
@ZMiller86 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾 stay strong— Tarik Cohen (@TarikCohen) October 29, 2017
“Zach works hard, he’s a leader on our team,” center Cody Whitehair said. “We’ll keep Zach in our prayers for sure.”
Making matters more difficult to swallow for the Bears: Miller’s season ended prematurely last year due to a broken foot, and a separate foot injury kept him sidelined for the entire 2014 season. He’s missed time due to various other injuries, too, and fell out of the league from 2012-2014 due to them.
“He is a fantastic person, he’s a great teammate,” coach John Fox said. “He is loved in our locker room. You hate to see it happen to anybody, especially somebody like that.”
“We lost a soldier, a leader, and just a good guy,” Wright said. “He’s a guy you want to be around all the time. He’s one of our leaders and one of our best playmakers. We’ll miss him."