Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lacklustre Blue didn't help their bottom line

January promises players will make it up to loyal fans

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Three thoughts and three dots....

1. A MID-SUMMER NIGHT'S NIGHTMARE...

It's always been an interesting study, the relationship of this town with its football team.

Dating back to the days of Fritzie Hanson and leather helmets, Winnipeg has always been there -- through thick and thin, in sickness and in health -- for the Blue Bombers.

Now, while there were 30,976 at Investors Group Field Thursday night -- still short of the 33,500 capacity, but the largest crowd since last year's Banjo Bowl -- the 26-3 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos was about as entertaining as a trip to the dump.

And in the ongoing battle to win back customers all the while trying to attract new ones, it was the kind of performance that had to have the folks in the marketing department cursing.

"The biggest disappointment, besides teammates thinking they let down other teammates is having a crowd like that and putting that kind of effort forward," said head coach Mike O'Shea. "That's not lost on our guys.

"They get it. And they're going to make sure they fix it."

No one on the current roster, it could be argued, has a better understanding of how this team's recent woes affects the bottom line than Glenn January, who has worn Bomber colours for six years and lives here year round.

"It feels like crap to have a loss at home in front of our fans," said the big Texan. "But this could be a learning experience for everyone in this room.

"Hopefully fans understand this is professional football and every week you're facing a different challenge. There's some positives we can take away from this and I hope the fans do see that. There's a lot of stuff to correct, but our effort is what will be our identity this year."

2. FROM FRONT RUNNERS TO TRAILING THE LEADERS...

The Bombers could find themselves behind a couple of West Division rivals by the time Week 4 of the CFL schedule is complete. The Esks are now a perfect 4-0 while the Calgary Stampeders, who had the bye last week but are 2-0, are home Friday to the winless Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

What will be interesting now to study in the days ahead is what kind of bounce-back the Bombers display. Winnipeg is on the road for its' next two, starting in B.C. and then a week after in Hamilton.

"We've shown we can come back and win games," said Bryant Turner Jr. "So, we've already learned a lot from the last two games and we're definitely going to learn a lot from this one.

"This is a great eye-opener. We'll come back to practice even more focused. I'm not saying we weren't, but we've got guys that will put in the time. We've already got guys here working eight-10 hours a day, every day.

"There's some little things you take for granted. And in games like this, they came back to bite us."

3. THE MAYOR RETURNS...

Finally, it was interesting to see Odell Willis -- the former mayor of Swaggerville who can bring heat off the edge like few other in this league -- still making some huge plays from his defensive end spot.

It was Willis who stepped up to snatch the ball away from Nic Grigsby as the Bomber tailback was juggling a Willy pass before returning it 17 yards for a TD for the game's first score.

Willis then promptly rifled the ball into the crowd and drew an objectionable conduct penalty, although what he said or did remains a bit of a mystery.

But it was in that moment when the difference between this year's Bomber 'D' and the bunch that was the backbone of the team that ran to the 2011 Grey Cup couldn't have been more obvious.

And if you're thinking that's by accident, think again.

Mention the word 'Swaggerville' to O'Shea and the Bomber boss crinkles up his nose like he's just gulped down a litre of sour milk.

Humility is never a bad characteristic. But on nights like Thursday, a little crazed dog in a defence looks impressive, too.

"It's different. It's a different group of guys," said Bomber defensive end Jason Vega when asked to compare the current defence to the Swaggerville bunch.

"Those guys, myself included because I was there but I was younger... that crew was more of a flashy, in-your-face, look at us crew. This is more of a bring your lunch pail, clock in and do your job and pass on the praise to someone else kinda crew.

"I'm thoroughly enjoying what we have right now."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2014 C2

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