By Dave Boling The News Tribune
ATLANTA — The announcement came early in the first period of Seattle’s playoff game against the Falcons: Seattle tight end Zach Miller has a foot injury, his return is questionable.
Actually, his return was remarkable.
After a quick retreat to the locker room for treatment, Miller not only returned to the field, he finished with eight catches for 142 yards and a touchdown.
The yardage was just one yard short of the Seahawks’ franchise postseason record (Darrell Jackson versus Washington on Jan. 14, 2006).
It was a career high in yards for Miller, who also had four critical catches in last week’s win over Washington in the wildcard round. But it wasn’t enough this week as the Seahawks fell 30-28 on a late Falcons’ field goal.
“It was nice to get some balls like that, but we’re disappointed we didn’t win. We were so close (but) if there’s any solace, I don’t feel that right now,” Miller said.
As was the case last week in Washington, when they fell behind 14-0, the Hawks were slow starters again on Sunday, trailing 20-0 at halftime.
“I wouldn’t say we get rattled,” Miller said of the deficit. “We realize, hey, we gotta stop messing around and go score some points. We just didn’t play well in the first half. We had some drives but we just didn’t get points out of them. And that came back to haunt us.”
Miller can’t be blamed for their falling short.
“He did a tremendous job today … and all season,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said. “He’s a true fighter; makes great catches, runs great routes, is a great blocker. He’s a tough, tough player.”
Miller said he felt a painful pop in his left foot on the first series. He recognized the pain and diagnosed it himself — torn plantar fascia — having suffered the same injury on his other foot.
“I just had to get a little injection and come back out,” he said. “I’ve done it with my other foot before so I know I can play with it.”
After his important contribution last week, it would seem that the Falcons’ defense would focus on him.
“Sometimes they just didn’t cover me,” Miller said. “They’re playing that 3-deep coverage and leaving the seams open and I was able to get open. Sometimes they were blitzing and leaving me open, or running a guy from the other side of the field to cover me and Russell did a great job of seeing it and getting the ball to me quick.”
Miller has been one of the ultimate “team” players, having sacrificed the attention of catching passes last season while the Seahawks needed him to stay on the line to help with shaky protection last season.
But his efforts have been highly visible this season.
“He had a fantastic football game,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. “He got hurt early in the game and he stuck in there an finished it. The guy was all over the place. He did well catching the ball and making plays. It was his day today and Russell found him all day long.”