Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue entering no fans land

Team is giving its faithful little reason for hope

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Heads have rolled from the executive offices right down to the men in the locker room. And it's clear more changes are on the horizon.

Three different quarterbacks have started games and, still, there appears to be no clear-cut answer to the franchise's most glaring need.

The secondary is under attack from the head coach -- again -- and the squealing about the competence of the offensive line has reached an excruciating pitch.

They are on a seven-game losing skid that has dropped them to 1-8, their worst run since an 0-10 start in 1998.

And through it all the Winnipeg Blue Bombers frustrated faithful are asking one pertinent question in the wake of Sunday's annual Labour Day Classic loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders:

'It's not about taking the positives out of a could-have-won game. That can go on for maybe two or three games but when it keeps happening... what positives can you take out of that?'

-- Bombers running back Chad Simpson, seen here pulling in a pass Sunday

You mean this nightmare of a 2013 season is only HALF over?

The Bombers exited Regina late Sunday night grasping for positives in another defeat -- the ninth straight on Labour Day -- that looked and smelled like so many others over the last little while. They led the Riders by a score of 18-14 at halftime but -- predictably -- came unravelled in the game's critical moments.

And so despite some brief flashes -- a 9-for-9 start for Justin Goltz, an Henoc Muamba tackle of Kory Sheets for a safety and later an interception by the Bombers middle linebacker -- the script unfolded pretty much as everyone had predicted.

Backed into a corner on their own turf, the Riders came out swinging and outscored the Bombers 41-8 in the final 32 minutes -- including 10-0 in the third quarter. (For those of you tracking these things -- and there are many -- Winnipeg has now been outscored 43-2 in third quarters since their season opener).

Essentially, the Labour Day Classic became akin to watching a dog work over a chew toy for three hours -- at first the toy offers up some resistance but, ultimately, the thing is completely devoured.

Afterwards we suggested on Twitter that if Bombers could find silver linings in all this, then they deserve special consideration from the big man upstairs.

Some folks managed to sift through the wreckage and find something salvageable, like the Bombers holding Kory Sheets to only 91 yards rushing, the occasional moments of glory from Goltz and Muamba's pick -- the first thrown by Darian Durant this season.

But we also received a succinct email from a reader that also sums up the sentiment of so many fans who have watched this club go 7-20 over the past two years and 10-27 since Labour Day 2011.

"Why do you even attempt to put lipstick on this pig anymore?" the fan wrote. "At least hockey season starts soon."

And that's why the Bombers are entering some dangerous territory here. The number of diehards who made the Labour Day trek to Regina was down significantly and, if there isn't some sense that things are going to change, those totals could start affecting the turnstiles here in Winnipeg after the Banjo Bowl.

Quite clearly, all this losing has an impact on the bottom line.

Right now the Bombers are being run by a new CEO and acting GM pushing to make change, a head coach trying to hang on to his job and 50-plus players who are still trying to sell -- both to the public and themselves -- that they aren't far off from being competitive.

But that was an old sales pitch a year ago. More than anything fans simply want a sense this downward spiral will end soon. They want hope, someone to step up and say, "this is what we are going to build around for 2014." And right now the list of components for a solid foundation is thin.

"This game isn't about hanging with people. We've got to win," said running back Chad Simpson in a morose Bomber locker room Sunday. "There were a couple of moments in the game where we could have taken over and won. That's what pro ball comes down to, single plays. You practice all week for that single play that can change the game and then we didn't come up with what we needed to come up with.

"You always try to find positives. Yes, we did good. But we've done good against B.C. and fought against real good teams before. We did it last year, we did it this year. It's not about taking the positives out a could-have-won game. That can go on for maybe two or three games but when it keeps happening... what positives can you take out of that?"

Great question. And right now the Bombers are still lost for an answer.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: WFPEdTait

There was a stretch in Sunday’s 51st Labour Day Classic when the Bombers looked like they might have the bookies in Vegas sweating. But then, as has so often been the case this season and last, the roof completely collapsed on the visitors as the Saskatchewan Roughriders out-scored their opponents 31-8 in the final 32 minutes en route to a 48-25 win.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 3, 2013 D1

History

Updated on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 6:52 AM CDT: replaces photo

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