All week long the Bombers were told that they were not allowed to go out and talk about first place. Then they went out and, on offense and occasionally on special teams, played like they were not allowed to play for first place either. Despite showing great resilience in the second half behind the play of Chris Garrett and Alex Brink (for the record, I think Brink should be the Bombers starter), they almost pulled out a game that they didn’t deserve to win.
I’m going to get to the reffing in a moment, but a couple of quick observations about the game. I tweeted early in the game, when the Bombers decided to go for three instead of trying for the first down from the five that Paul LaPolice had done that in the past and it had worked out quite well. However, he did it a second time later in the game, in a situation where the touchdown would have meant that the Bombers would only have needed a field goal rather than a touchdown on that final drive. Those two calls resulted in eight points potentially being left on the field. The Bomber offense is not quite good enough that they can afford to keep doing that.
The other thing is in regards to the aftermath of the Mainor roughing penalty in the first half. That was a horrible call by the officials. Given that it was a dead ball foul, and a conduct rather than an action foul, ie, it didn’t effect the course of the play, the officials should be able to take a quick peak at the screen and then reverse the call when they see that the player, in this case Mainor, was clearly pushed. However, as bad as the penalty was, it doesn’t excuse the Bombers for losing their focus on the field. This is another issue that LaPolice has to address, the tendency of the Bombers to take bad calls personally and allow it to affect their play.
These are issues that Paul LaPolice needs to fix. Hopefully he can fix them while this season continues. However, he needs to be given the chance to fix them during the off-season as well. His coaching may not be perfect, by he has led the Bombers into the playoffs and secured the team a home playoff game. However, the team needs to let him know that he has to improve his game management.
Some people will say get rid of him, but you don’t build a stable winning program firing the coach every two years. One thing that I notice about the Bombers is that they seem to have more depth than recent teams, as guys like Mainor indicate.
The Bombers still have a theoretical shot at first place, although the Als have to lose at least once in the next two games for there to be any chance of that happening. The Bombers do play reasonably well on the road. After all, for all the talk about the crowds at Canadinns Stadium, the Bombers only finished 5-4 at home, hardly hometown domination. They’ve also shown that they can go on the road and win, so in the overall I don’t worry about whether they have to take on the Als in Montreal or not. They do, however, have to get their focus back, or they won’t even make it to the Eastern conference final.
Now. On to the reffing. The reffing in this game was farcical. First, the good point. The refs absolutely got the late hit on Jyles by Sears correct. Sears clearly led with his helmet and deserved to be out of the game. This is also not the first time that Sears has done something so boneheaded, having got ejected against Saskatchewan earlier in the year. Kudos to the Argonauts for making sure that Jyles sat out the rest of the game. It may seem like the obvious thing to do, but all too often it isn’t.
I’ve already talked about the Mainor call, and like I said, the Bombers lost on their own merits tonight, by failing to remember that there was a game going on for large periods of time. However, the several non-plays at the end of the game, to away from the flow of the game entirely. It makes me think of NHL linesmen who take 20 minutes to drop the puck at a face-off so they can get there screen time. Regardless of the outcome, the ending would have been exciting rather than exasperating had the refs done their job well.
Now we get to the hard part. Will the CFL take any action. I thought firing the ref after the earlier Bomber-Alouette game was more than a little bit of overreaction. However, since there’s only one week of regular season and three weeks of playoffs, it doesn’t seem out of line to tell this crew, especially the referee, that they aren’t going to call any more games this year, and that they need to do some upgrading on their skills during the offseason.
This would send a clear message to the fans, that the CFL realizes that fan experience is at the heart of present and future success. While they’re at it, they could also start having the refs give rationales for replay decisions. The play on the field is exciting and entertaining. It’s time Marc Cohon and Tom Higgins, got together with the officials and made sure that they keep it that way.