Bears' Miller, Booker and Brown all hurt vs. EaglesPosted: Saturday January 19, 2002 6:46 PM
Updated: Saturday January 19, 2002 9:41 PM
He's the team's leader, the guy who makes things happen and gets them believing they can win. And without him, the Bears were a team adrift.
"It's hard to win without your starting quarterback," a disappointed Miller said after Chicago's 33-19 playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday afternoon.
Miller separated his throwing shoulder seconds after he threw an interception late in the first quarter, and his absence doomed the Bears. Chicago's offense, not exactly potent to begin with, was never able to find its rhythm. The Bears were outgained 336-184, and the offense managed only a field goal in the second half.
Philadelphia advanced to next weekend's NFC championship, facing the winner of Sunday's Green Bay-St. Louis game. The Bears (13-4) go home with mixed emotions. They did more than anyone outside the team expected this year in winning the NFC Central division, but they lost their first playoff game since 1994.
"It's disappointing to work so hard for something like this to happen," Miller said.
Especially since it could be the last game in Chicago for Miller, an unrestricted free agent. He's said he'd like to come back, and the Bears have had some discussions with his agent.
"We'll see how it works out," he said.
Wide receiver Marty Booker and safety Mike Brown also left the game briefly with injuries, but they returned. While both are key players -- Booker is the Bears leading receiver while Brown returned two interceptions for game-winning touchdowns this year -- neither injury was as big as Miller's.
He may not be the swiftest of quarterbacks or have the strongest arm. But he makes things happen.
With the Bears trailing 6-0 with two minutes left in the first quarter, Miller was intercepted by Philadelphia safety Damon Moore at the Eagles 2. During the return, Eagles defensive end Hugh Douglas went at Miller and pile-drived him into the ground.
Miller got up holding his arm, and was led to the sidelines. He sat on the bench for several minutes and was then taken to the locker room. He never got back into the game.
"I'm not going to comment until I see the tape," Miller said. "I'd hate to say something stupid until I see what happened."
But backup Shane Matthews, who replaced Miller, had no hesitations.
"The shot that put Jim out was dirty," Matthews said. "It was uncalled for and it's a shame. It was a cheap shot."
Douglas denied that.
"That was a legal play," he said. "[Miller] shouldn't have acted like he was trying to block. We're coached that if you try to block, you're going to catch one. He's a quarterback. He should have been smart enough to know he's not supposed to do that."
While Matthews has thrived in backup roles before -- he led the Bears to an overtime victory against San Francisco on Oct. 28 after Miller suffered a hip pointer -- he was at a distinct disadvantage this time.
He hasn't played in 2 1/2 months. And with the Bears preparing for Philadelphia's speedy defense and multitude of blitzes, he likely didn't get much time with the first unit in practice this week.
"I just couldn't get in a rhythm," Matthews said. "I let the team down."
He was just 8-of-17 for 66 yards and was picked off twice. He was sacked once, losing 9 yards, and pressured many other times.
"Trust me, it wasn't Shane's fault we looked like that," center Olin Kreutz said. "Shane can win games, you've seen it."
Chicago's running game didn't go anywhere, either. The Bears were held to 111 yards rushing, but 47 came on Ahmad Merritt's TD run in the second quarter.
Anthony Thomas, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, had 36 yards rushing on 15 carries.