Last weekend the Bombers went in to Regina and got thoroughly beaten by the Riders. They were outplayed and completely lost their composure by the time the game was over. The feeling, to a large extent, was that’s the way it is every Labour Day. the Bombers go into Regina and no matter how well they’re playing they return to Winnipeg having been badly beaten.
This weekend, The Roughriders made the trip to Winnipeg, and although the game started out promising for the Bombers the end result was almost as bad as the week before. Score in Regina 27-7 Riders. Score in Winnipeg 45-23 Riders. The only real difference between the two games is that the Bombers did slightly, and I emphasize slightly, better in maintaining their composure.
Naturally, after all the talk of Swaggerville, the headlines around the web today reflect a great deal of pleasure being taken in the Bomber losses. One only needs to go to Twitter, type #CFL into the search box and then look under all to find a bit of the rejoicing. I have to admit, they are entitled to it, especially the Rider fans.
It raised the question though. Where do the Bombers really stand at this point in the CFL season. Well, at the moment they still stand in first place in the CFL East, and even if they lose in Montreal next week, they will only be in a tie for first place. That’s good news. They also hold a de facto three game lead over the Hamilton Tiger-cats for second place. That’s also good news.
The bad news comes in many forms, most notably the health of Buck Pierce. Clearly the abuse he took during the game Sunday affected his play as the game went on. There were too many big hits on him, especially the one delivered by Butler. There is no question that Pierce is one of the toughest players in the league, but if these injuries are hurting his mechanics in a substantial way, it’s an issue the Bombers need to deal with sooner rather than later. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, better to run the risk of losing a given game with Brink in at quarterback than to lose Buck for the season, or have him play injured for a long period of time.
One aspect of the last two weeks that needs work is the Bomber punting game. This was especially noticeable Sunday. Renaud’s punts were consistently of the line drive character that make for good returns and Saskatchewan took advantage of that on several occasions in the game. Tim Brown showed some potential on the Bombers side returning kicks, but I need to see him some more before I can comment on whether or not he’s the answer to the Bomber’s return woes.
The defense has shown some weakness in the last two weeks, particularly in the secondary. Most notably this is the group that seems to be having the most trouble keeping its composure. The loss of Joe Lobendahn will hurt this group as it goes forward. It’s interesting that Winnipeg’s defense has given up 99 points in the three games since Doug Brown returned to the lineup. I’m not trying to suggest that Brown’s play is in any way the cause of this. I will suggest, however, that the Bomber’s need to look for some of the team play on defense that they demonstrated so well during Brown’s absence.
Then there is the Fred Reid question. Reid started off strong yesterday, but as the game wore on he seemed to be less effective. Part of this may be the Bombers not finding enough ways to get him the ball in space, but part of it seems that he doesn’t have the endurance that he has had in past seasons. Perhaps it’s time for the Bombers to bring in a late NFL cut to provide Reid with a little competition.
Ive said all year long that the Bombers needed to start scoring early in games. Well, they did that yesterday and ended up getting hammered. Maybe that’s not so important after all.
Looking back over the last two games, it appears that the Bombers encountered a severe course correction. Chinks in their armour were widened a little. However, all of these things may be fixable. The loss of Lobendahn and Pierce’s status are the biggest concerns. The next biggest problem is the tendency to lose composure. One of the most encouraging aspects of the Bombers early success was that they played so well as a team and kept their focus on the game itself. If they can get that back they have a real good chance of righting the ship.
Sunday they go into Montreal. They will be facing an Alouette team that is not going to give up its place as the dominant team in the Eastern conference without a real fight. After a couple of down games Anthony Calvillo reasserted himself, reminding everyone of why he is arguably the greatest quarterback in CFL history. Montreal’s defense however, is still hurting and the Bombers need to take advantage of that fact.
This game will tell us a lot about how the Bombers are going to take on the rest of the season. I think it will also tell us a lot about Paul La Police, the Bomber coach. We’ve heard quite a bit the last couple of weeks about how he doesn’t tolerate the kinds of penalties that the Bombers have taken to many of. For the Bombers to get back on the right track, that has to be more than talk. We need to see a more focused and disciplined Bomber team on the field on Sunday.
I’m going to come across as a homer here, but I think the Bombers get the job done on Sunday. Final Score: Bombers 30 Als 24.