Bears: Zach Miller attacking familiar foe but confident he'll be ready for OTAs

Bears: Zach Miller attacking familiar foe but confident he'll be ready for OTAs

Among the Bears' multiple needs to fill out their roster this offseason, what's believed to be a strong draft for tight ends will afford general manager Ryan Pace the potential to fortify the position behind Zach Miller and build competition with developmental options Dan Brown and Ben Braunecker.

Miller finally played a full season in 2015 as part of an NFL career that dates back to 2009 and included not playing in a single game over a three-year span. But the injury bug bit him again in the Bears' 10th game this season as the new starter, after already surpassing the career highs he set in 2015 for receptions and receiving yards. Yet he told former Bear Tom Thayer and me Monday night on "Bears All Access" on "670 The Score" he's on schedule from the fractured Lisfranc in his right foot suffered against the Giants in November.

"Everything's going great. I'll be ready when we get back in April," Miller said. "Everything's going according to plan, ahead of schedule. I've been through this exact rehab schedule before. I know what it entails and I've been able to bounce back and play at a high level before, and I'm comfortable with that. You just gotta put in the time and the work, and when it's time to get back in April and go through OTAs I'll just build on that and work towards getting ready for training camp."

While familiarity of this kind brings frustration and contempt, there's also, in a weird way, a sense of comfort with the injury. Miller was on his way to earning a roster spot in an impressive preseason after the Bears signed him in 2014, only to suffer the same break in his left foot.

"I knew as soon as my foot planted," Miller said of the second instance. "JPP (Giants defense end Jason Pierre-Paul) and I kind of got tangled up in the way we fell. As soon as it happened, I told Jay (Cutler, in what turned into his last game of the season, too) as I was walking off, `I blew my other Lisfranc,' and he said, `What?'  As I was hobbling to the sidelines Nate Breske, our head trainer, said, 'You want me to get the cart?' And I didn't wanna be carted off so I just walked, and put all the pressure on my heel because every time you step, your foot basically slides in half. But it was something I knew instantly. Obviously frustrated, but it's something I've been through before, so we'll get through it."

Miller's performance two seasons ago in supplementing the position with Martellus Bennett factored into the Bears parting ways with the eccentric, self-nicknamed "Black Unicorn" in a deal last offseason with the Patriots. His former teammate got to watch Bennett win a Super Bowl ring for New England Sunday night.

"We've talked a couple times throughout the season. If he had good games or I had good games, we'd text. He hit me up after the injury, and I spoke with him a couple of times throughout the playoffs just to wish him well. And I spoke to him (Monday) to congratulate him.  But I watched him,  and when he had his opportunity (in Sunday's win over Atlanta), he did his thing.  He played well so I'm happy for him and his family to be able to enjoy that moment."

Lack of flags another reason why the Bears’ defense is the NFL’s best

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Lack of flags another reason why the Bears’ defense is the NFL’s best

A thought here after watching Thursday night’s Chargers-Chiefs tilt, which featured eight flags for either defensive pass interference or defensive holding...

As the NFL makes it harder for defensive players to play defense (and as TV ratings go up), the Bears are one of the cleanest teams when it comes to their opponents’ passing game. They rank second among teams with only eight combined defensive holding and defensive pass interference penalties: 

1. Dallas (5)
2. Chicago (8)
3. Oakland (10)
4. Tennessee, Los Angeles Chargers (11)
6. Arizona, Indianapolis (12)
8. Carolina, Cleveland, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Houston, Philadelphia (13)
14. Cincinnati, New York Jets, Seattle, Tampa Bay (14)
18. Baltimore, Pittsburgh (15)
20. Los Angeles Rams (16)
21. Buffalo, Minnesota, New England (17)
24. Denver, Detroit, New York Giants, San Francisco (18)
29. Atlanta, Miami (20)
31. New Orleans (23)
32. Kansas City (36)

The Chargers entered Thursday night’s game tied with the Bears with eight holding/pass interference penalties, but where whistled for three during the game — and not all were clear fouls, either. And that kind of stuff can be annoying for defensive players around the league to see. 

“100 percent,” Bears safety Eddie Jackson said. “.. .I’ve seen some things, I’m like come on, man. But there’s some things you can’t control. Control what you can control, and that’s go out there and play ball and to the best of your ability try not to hold or get a flag for pass interference called on you.”

Jackson credited four members of the coaching staff with the Bears’ ability to avoid holding/interference penalties: Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, assistant defensive backs coach Roy Anderson and quality control assistant Sean Desai. From teaching proper technique for being told what to watch out for, this is a well-coached group. Only cornerback Prince Amukamara — who’s usually in press coverage, subjecting him to the most contact — has been whistled for multiple interference or holding flags this year (he actually has half the Bears’ total, with four). 

“It’s a combination of both (coaching and technique) I would say,” coach Matt Nagy said. “The players, technique-wise is a big part of it. You’ve got to be really disciplined in that area. And then I think the other part of it is with the coaching is making sure that they’re watching to make sure to see where they’re at with it. So far, to have that, you want that overall as a team to be the least penalized, specifically in that area, that’s always a good thing.”

Consider it another feather in the cap of the league’s best defense: Even when passing-oriented rule changes and tweaks supposedly make it harder to play defense, the Bears largely haven’t suffered for it. 

“It’s more difficult for the referees, too,” Nagy said. “It’s difficult for them. It’s difficult for the players. There’s some subjectiveness to it. But you gotta try to not be too grabby.”  

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears and stream the ‘Football Aftershow’ easily on your device.

Bears vs. Packers, Week 15: How to watch, listen and stream


Bears vs. Packers, Week 15: How to watch, listen and stream

The Bears have their shot at redemption with the Green Bay Packers coming to town on Sunday. Chicago should be plenty motivated to avenge their devastating Week 1 loss, especially with the two teams trending in opposite directions this season.

Here’s how you can tune in to the game:

Game Information

Green Bay Packers (5-7-1) at Chicago Bears (9-4)

12:00 pm. CT, Sunday, December 16

Soldier Field, Chicago


Announcers: Chris Myers and Daryl Johnston

Watch live with fuboTV — Try free trial

Football Aftershow on NBC Sports Chicago


WBBM 780 (Chicago)

Satellite Radio

Bears feed: XM 227

Packers feed: XM 383

Coverage on NBC Sports Chicago

"The Warm Up” — 15 minutes prior to every Bears game this season, host Laurence Holmes, along with analysts Lance Briggs, Alex Brown, Matt Forte, will hold a special Facebook Live segment on NBC Sports Chicago’s official Facebook page — offering a game day preview featuring their expert commentary and predictions, plus - Bears fans will have also an opportunity to have their questions answered by submitting their game day inquiries via the “comments” section on the live stream.

“3rd Quarter Sidecast” — At the start of the third quarter of every Bears game this season, fans will also be able to interact with the Football Aftershow crew via Facebook Live ( as they watch and react to the first few series of the second half.

In addition, the “3rd Quarter Sidecast” will also feature more fan interaction as fans can post their thoughts and ask their questions to Briggs, Brown, and Forte.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears and stream the ‘Football Aftershow’ easily on your device.