Watch CBS News

Joniak's Journal: Zach Miller Becoming A Steady Presence For Bears

By Jeff Joniak--

(CBS) Looking for their first wins, the Bears (0-3) host the Lions (1-2) on Sunday at Soldier Field at noon. Here are my observations leading into the game.

First impression

Troubling at a minimum, disturbing in general, the Bears have lost their first three games. It all started with one bad route and one bad throw in the opener in Houston. That third-quarter disconnect between quarterback Jay Cutler and receiver Kevin White led to a momentum-turning interception by the Texans. Since then, the Bears were competitive in the first half against the Eagles, then played catch up after falling behind 24-3 to the Cowboys. We're reminded frequently by Bears coach John Fox that this team has little margin for error. So if one mental mistake has spiraled into three losses, I wonder if one big play can boost the Bears in an equally positive direction. This young, banged-up team needs more than that, but one big play could at least start calming the waters.

Second thought

A quarterback's best friend is a reliable pass-catching tight end, and Brian Hoyer's eyes were finding Zach Miller in Dallas. Hoyer threw to Miller nine times, completing eight passes, including two for touchdowns. While receiver Alshon Jeffrey makes more bigger plays, and White may start demanding more attention, Miller can be the chain mover and deep seam threat to open up the field for Hoyer and the Bears. Hoyer threw 14 times to White but completed only six passes, including a game best 32-yard strike. White's biggest catch as a pro was fighting over the top of Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne to secure the ball. It's the play to build on. It's a signature catch when you consider what White is capable of given his size and athleticism. Now, it would be great to see White unleash his great speed on a go route. If Miller can open up the deep middle, White can diffuse some downfield bracketing by getting behind a safety for a touchdown.

Third degree

It's a big test for the Bears pass defense this week. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is playing some of the best ball of his career right now in the post-Calvin Johnson era. He operates the fourth-ranked offense and a top-five scoring unit that ranks third throwing the ball. Detroit is operating efficiently, ranking second on third down conversation at 51.3 percent while only turning the ball over twice. Meanwhile, the Bears defense has been on the field more than any unit in the league in terms of minutes of offensive possession time. It must be affecting them at some point in the game. Preventing Stafford from a conversion rate of more than 50 percent has to rank up there as one of the keys to this game.


It's somewhat of an expectation that a rookie linebacker will do more thinking than reacting in his first NFL game. It wouldn't be a surprise that West Virginia rookie linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, a Bears fourth -ound pick, was stuck in that mode in his debut in Dallas.

"The big eyes were there being in that venue," inside linebackers coach Glen Pires said. "He got comfortable as he went along. He knows he has a lot to work on."

Now it's about playing fast and just letting it go.

"That was what he was struggling with in the beginning, but it got a little better as it went along," Pires said.

Appearing on the Bears Coaches Show on Monday night on WBBM, Pires said Kwiatkoski has a good base in the run game and plays the game with a physical edge.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.