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Miller Gives the Chargers a Big Play to Savor . . . at Last

Was that really a Charger receiver flashing through the secondary, running for a touchdown in the first quarter Sunday against the New Orleans Saints?

Did he really wave the ball at the final defender as he crossed the goal line? A Charger?

At least one question was answered in a 23-17 loss to the Saints in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

Is there anybody here who can make the big play?

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Yes, Anthony Miller, the Chargers’ No. 1 draft pick, with the speed to make your hair fly back as he runs by, can get some points on the board in a hurry.

There he was in the first quarter, cutting over the middle to take a pass from Babe Laufenberg and sprint 30 yards across the field, leaving two Saints in his wake, to complete a 47-yard touchdown play.

“Did he run track at Tennessee?” asked Saint defensive back Milton Mack, who was beaten by Miller for the Chargers’ only offensive touchdown. “He’s got some good speed. I had outside coverage on him and he made a good, quick move to the inside. I slipped a little. You can’t do that against a guy like him.”

Miller has been waiting for his moment, ever since the Chargers decided to use their top draft selection for a game-breaking wide receiver.

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The Chargers have been waiting for Miller’s moment right along with him.

Through the first 5 games, Miller had caught only 12 passes, averaged only 11.8 yards per catch, with no touchdowns. Hardly game-breaking statistics.

Until Sunday. On second and 8 from the Saint 47, Laufenberg dropped and looked to his left. Miller cut in at the 30 and caught the ball in stride.

Mack was beaten. Safety Gene Atkins gave chase. Miller got to the 10 and waved the ball at Atkins.

“It was like I was telling him to slow down,” Miller said. “He wasn’t going to catch me.”

In a way, it seemed so easy.

Run 15 yards, cut in to the middle, catch the ball, and run. But why hadn’t it happened before?

“We caught them with the perfect play call against their defense on that play,” Charger Coach Al Saunders said. “Anthony’s a rookie and sometimes he still plays like one. Before it’s all over, though, we’re going to be real proud and happy to have him. We’d like to see more plays like the one today, and I think we will.”

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Miller averaged more than 17 yards per catch at Pasadena City College and the University of Tennessee.

Before Miller, Tennessee had another well-known wide receiver, Willie Gault. Charger coaches likened Miller to Gault before the season because of his great speed.

Before Sunday, the speed had yet to be unleased.

“Before the game, we all talked that somebody had to step up and make a big play for us,” Laufenberg said. “Anthony was the guy who did it.

“I mean, I hit him with that pass, but that could very easily just have been a 15-yard gain. He’s the one who turned it into a touchdown.”


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