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Gimme da ball, Simpson says

Bombers tailback planning bust-out game against Tabbies

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The production of Blue Bombers tailback Chad Simpson has tailed off considerably from last year. He aims to fix that tonight vs. the Tabbies in Guelph.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

The production of Blue Bombers tailback Chad Simpson has tailed off considerably from last year. He aims to fix that tonight vs. the Tabbies in Guelph. Photo Store

GUELPH, ONT. -- It's both their starting tailback's Twitter handle and a recipe for what the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are hoping to do on offence against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Alumni Stadium tonight -- Givechaddaball.

"Chad," of course, is Bombers running back Chad Simpson, the man who the Bombers brain trust were counting on this season to carry a big part of the offensive load and take some pressure off always embattled quarterback Buck Pierce.

But it hasn't worked out like that through the first two games of the season. Indeed, with just 90 yards rushing through two games and a measly 3.9 yards per carry average, Simpson has been ineffective to the point of near invisibility.

Almost every starting tailback in the league has rushed for more yards than Simpson this season -- including Saskatchewan's Kory Sheets, Calgary's John Cornish, Edmonton's Hugh Charles, Toronto's Chad Kackert and B.C.'s Andrew Harris.

And there was even a quarterback -- Edmonton's Mike Reilly -- with more rushing yards than Simpson after Week 2. Reilly had 91 yards on just 10 carries.

The fact Simpson's per-carry average is also more than two yards less than all those men have -- almost five yards less than Charles -- simply puts the exclamation point on the problem.

But help may be finally on the way for the Bombers' running game tonight in the form of a Hamilton run defence that has been epically porous through the first two weeks of the season.

Get this -- opponents have averaged 9.0 yards per carry against Hamilton.

That's not only the worst in the CFL, it's the worst by almost three yards per carry. All of which is to say that if ever Simpson is going to get going and begin to show the form that saw him rush for 1,039 yards in just 14 games for Winnipeg in 2012, tonight would seem to be the time.

Simpson was careful on Friday, however, not to put the cart before his horsepower. "You can't go in thinking like that, because you might be the game they get it right on," Simpson said shortly after his team arrived at their downtown hotel.

Simpson will be confronted tonight, however, with a motivated Hamilton defence that knows very well after a week of watching film how bad they looked in a loss to Edmonton last week that saw Charles and Reilly run amok.

"This is more or less a passing league," observed Ticats linebacker Jamall Johnson on Friday. "So if you can take a team's running game away and make them one-dimensional, you're going to have opportunities to get some interceptions and get to the quarterback as well."

That is pretty much exactly the recipe Montreal used during the first two weeks of the season to stifle a Bombers offence that heads into Week 3 last in the league in average yards per play (4.9) and second-last in average net yards (306).

Simpson said Winnipeg's failure to generate a running game so far is based on several reasons.

"It's been a number of things. We've got a new offence we're still getting used to, we're still trying to figure out people. And Montreal? They brought the house -- they went cover-zero and took away the run and we didn't do anything to get them out of that.

"It's definitely been frustrating. When your numbers aren't reflecting your play, it's frustrating. But I know we'll pull through. We started slow last year and we'll make something happen."

While the adage in football is the running game sets up the passing game, Bombers head coach Tim Burke says he believes it's the opposite for his club -- his team's running game will find traction only when they get more effective passing the ball.

"Montreal loaded the box in both games and really took away our running game," Burke explained Friday. "And so at that point, you've got to be able to throw and make them put extra defenders into the defensive backfield instead of on the line of scrimmage."

That's also yet to happen, however. And nowhere has that failing been more evident than in Pierce's QB efficiency rating, which at 68.4 is second from the bottom among the CFL's starting quarterbacks.

The only QB with a worse rating than Pierce is Montreal's Anthony Calvillo, whose 65.9 rating stands as a monument to a Bombers defence that gave him fits, especially last week.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 13, 2013 C1

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