On back to back plays against the Raiders, Anthony Miller couldn't quite find the ball.
On the first drive of the second half, down 17-0 and very much needing some momentum, quarterback Chase Daniel targeted the second-year wide receiver on second and third down.
The first pass was tipped by an Oakland defender, and a diving Miller couldn't quite get under what would have been a substantial gain. The second was high: not uncatchable but requiring the 5-11 receiver to extend up and forward.
The ball bounced off Miller's fingertips. When he got back to the sidelines, he decided it was time to make a change.
Miller revealed to reporters Wednesday that after the dropped pass he decided to cut off a precautionary harness wrapped around his surgically repaired shoulder.
“I just cut it off because I couldn't reach all the way,” said Miller. “I cut it off, and I started playing better after that.”
Minutes later, Miller had his most impressive series of the season: three catches for 46 yards. The difference was most telling when Miller reached over Raiders safety Lemarcus Joyner for a 32-yard gain. Two plays later, the Bears were in the end zone.
"My harness is gone the rest of the year," said Miller.
The second half of the Oakland game was the first sign this season that Miller might play a more prominent role in the Bears passing attack, which has relied heavily on Allen Robinson in the first five games.
Miller had a productive rookie season, catching 33 passes for 423 yards and seven touchdowns. However, his shoulder injury slowed him down considerably toward the end of the season, and his usage dropped in the final six weeks.
As Miller ditches his harness, it appears that quarterback Mitch Trubisky will have to wear a similar contraption when he returns to game action from a shoulder injury of his own.
"I think I'm gonna have to try one on and wear it with my shoulder pads for them to let me play," said Trubisky.
Trubisky said that he anticipated that he would have a different experience with the harness, as he generally will not need to reach for passes. Miller said that he has passed on a few pointers to his quarterback.
Looking forward to this Sunday and beyond, Miller and the coaching staff agree that he will be called upon more frequently.
Coach Matt Nagy feels that Miller is on the upswing, saying that he was proud of the progress the receiver has made. He attributes Miller's improvement not only to improved health but also to a better grasp of the system.
"He has good ball skills," said Nagy. "You saw that against Oakland, but until he understood the details of this offense, the trust with the quarterback is not going to be there, right? So once you earn trust and you do the right things, you can play in this offense. You're starting to see that he's on the field more, and you're seeing more of what he can do."
Miller agreed with Nagy's assessment, saying that he feels more comfortable in the past month than he ever did as a rookie.
"It's definitely been stronger the past few weeks," said Miller. "I just know something's coming where I'm going to have to play a huge role, and I'm going to be prepared."