By Brady Henderson
It was a return in more ways than one for tight end Zach Miller, who was back in his home state and back in the Seahawks' starting lineup after a two-game absence.
And what a return it was.
Miller led the Seahawks in receptions, caught a touchdown pass and had a hand in one of the more memorable plays of Seattle's 34-22 win over the Cardinals Thursday night, doing it all in a stadium located just minutes from where he grew up.
Tight end Zach Miller led Seattle with five catches, three of which converted third downs and one of which gave the Seahawks their second touchdown. (AP)
He looked it, too, first on his 15-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. It was a great throw, Russell Wilson lobbing it over a Cardinals safety to the back of the end zone where only his man could get it. It was an even better catch, Miller going full extension and hanging on as he came down to give the Seahawks their second touchdown of the game.
"That was sweet," Wilson told reporters. "He was so happy, obviously, coming back home and making a big-time touchdown like that."
In the third quarter, Miller was on the receiving end of an improbable pass from Wilson, who had rolled to his left and was being taken down by Cardinals linebacker Darryl Washington as he got rid of the ball with his knees just inches from the turf. Miller dove to make the catch, which converted a third down.
"He was just under so much pressure and I just tried to give him an outlet," Miller said of Wilson. "As he scrambled that way, I knew I was pretty much the only receiver on that side of the ball that he would be able to get a ball out to, so I just kept working for him and luckily he got that ball up just enough for me to dive down and get it, and I had to do what I could to catch that ball."
The play that was as significant as it was spectacular. The Cardinals had pulled to within four points with a field goal on their previous possession, and failing to convert on third down would have given Arizona a chance to drive for the go-ahead score. Instead, that throw and catch kept alive a drive that ended six plays later when Wilson found tight end Kellen Davis for a 1-yard touchdown and a 24-13 lead.
"Zach Miller just made a huge play," Wilson said. "Just tried to give him a chance to make a big play for us and he made a great catch and a big first down."
Three of Miller's five catches Thursday converted third downs, an area in which Seattle showed significant improvement. Sustaining drives has been a struggle all season, especially the last two weeks as Seattle went a combined 5 for 26 on third down. The Seahawks were 7 of 12 Thursday night, and it's not a coincidence that their most efficient game of the season coincided with Miller's return.
"He made a great catch and some great plays," coach Pete Carroll told reporters. "You can just see he's just a clutch guy and we count on him. There was a lot of stuff that he did in the running game as well that helps us."
Miller was a captain for the Seahawks this week in his return home. He was a godsend for their offense in his return to the starting lineup.
"Love having him back," Wilson said.
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.