The return from injury of TE Zach Miller was a big lift last week in Arizona. QB Russell Wilson, who threw 12 passes in playoffs to Miller, hit him 5 times for 40 yards vs. Cardinals.
Travel tip for Seahawks fans: Tickets to Seattle’s game in St. Louis’s Edward Jones Dome Monday night were available Wednesday on Stubhub.com for as little as $8 for a seat in the end zone. Zach Miller has a message: “The challenge is out to you, 12th Man.”
Miller and his pals would love to see repeated under the Arch what happened a week ago in the desert: Thousands of Seattle fans showing up to nearly shout down the fans of the home-standing Arizona Cardinals.
“Last week was crazy, how loud on fans were for a road game,” Miller said Thursday. “Never seen anything like it. If we do that again, it’s awesome.”
Booking of flights might be a tad more difficult than game tickets. Besides Monday Night Football, St. Louis is scheduled to host Game 5 of the World Series at Busch Stadium, unless the Cardinals don’t play better than they did in Game 1 and get swept.
Few in St. Louis right now are caring about the Rams (3-4), who took a big hit Sunday with the loss of starting QB Sam Bradford for the season with a torn ACL. The prospect of a half-empty stadium only adds to the Seahawks advantage, already set at 11 points by oddsmakers.
But besides a robust appearance of the 12th Man, the Seahawks would also like to see something else repeated Monday: A fast start for the offense with Miller playing the role of studmuffin.
Miller’s absence with a sore hamstring deprived the Seahawks of his pass-catching and pass-blocking skills. It forced the Seahawks to go with a rookie, Luke Willson, who last weekend had to pick up some snaps at fullback, where another rookie, Derrick Coleman, also went down with a hamstring problem.
The Seahawks like Willson and Coleman. But Miller is a seven-year pro and Michael Robinson, who was re-signed this week after Coleman’s injury, is an eight-year pro. Getting the two vets back in the offense is a steep upgrade, nearly as big a deal as getting back from injury the two starting tackles, Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini.
“For Zach to jump in the game and have the impact he had was big for us,” said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. “Zach brings a lot of experience for us; we ask him to do different things.”
Like, get open. Miller is rapidly becoming QB Russell Wilson’s favorite pass pal. Against Arizona, Miller was targeted seven times and caught a team-high five balls for 40 yards. Two were spectacular: A 17-yard pass in which he was in full horizontal extension in the end zone when he pulled in the touchdown, and a three-yarder on third down in which he dove long and low to scoop a pass from Wilson, who was falling down in the grasp of a sacker when he released.
“He had a fantastic game for us,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s the kind of guy you can just count on every single time you go out, whether it’s blocking, catching, or running.
“We named him captain for the week too, so maybe it was all of that. I may have to do it again. But I like to think that Zach is just on it.”
On the road, the Seahawks often appoint a captain if he’s from nearby. Miller grew up in Phoenix and went to Arizona State, started 35 games and in 2006 was named Pac-10 All-Conference and Pac-10 All-Academic. But the geographic magic is unlikely to be of influence Monday.
“I’ve spent zero time in St. Louis,” he said, grinning. He did spend some time studying the Seattle offense when he was sidelined, and it was apparent that operating with rookies limited the Seahawks.
“We changed our offense a little while I was out,” he said. “Some things we used to do, we didn’t do as much. The play-calling changed a little bit. Willson and (veteran Kellen) Davis did a great job. But I’ve been in this offense so long — seven years with (line coach) Tom Cable (including four together in Oakland) — that I’ve seen everything a defense can throw at us.”
Miller was a big force in the January playoff games, catching four for 48 yards against Washington and eight for 142 yards and a TD against Atlanta. When the Seahawks send their receivers wide or deep, the middle is open for Miller on crossing or post patterns.
“He really got hot at the end of the year, where he was really making key plays and coming through with some spectacular plays,” Carroll said. “As soon as we give him the chances, he’s there. He’s a big factor for us.
“Even if I have to name him captain every week, I’ll do it.”
The title seemed less important to Miller than the ball.
“The Arizona game was just the way I wanted it to be,” Miller said. “I got involved early in the game. Russell was looking my way. Everything felt good.”
Getting Miller as well as Robinson back might be entertaining enough to draw some Seahawks fans to St. Louis. Good seats are available.