Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No crisis just yet, but Bombers still finding identity

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Without fail, and any day now, one of the veteran players of your local pro-football team will be approached by a member of the media and asked, "What kind of identity is the 2013 football team starting to create?"

Understanding the identity of the local ball club not only makes covering and relating to them easier, but once it is recognized and accepted by the squad, it becomes a rallying point and source of pride for the team.

The sooner a franchise identifies what the strength and reputation of the outfit will be, the better off they are.

Those teams that get off to slow starts don't get a sense of themselves until well into the season, because the majority of the characteristics they display are negative, and they don't wish to be defined by them.

A coach once told me, when it comes to a unit or a team establishing itself and creating an identity, it is a four-stage process. If something promising happens once on the football field, it is a fluke. If the same performance shows up twice in a row, it is merely a coincidence. If the same characteristics reveal themselves three times in succession, it is the beginning of a trend. And after four consecutive games, where one or more phases of the football team makes it's presence known on the field, consistently, it is an identity, and a fact.

Abiding by this logic, as of right now, the Bombers' defensive performance against Montreal then, holding quarterback Anthony Calvillo to 121 yards passing and tailback Brandon Whitaker to only 33 yards rushing, could be considered a fluke or a lucky collusion of favorable events.

People can still write off one game as the outcome of a rookie head coach and an offensive system that couldn't spell C.F.L., let alone find its geography on a map, in tandem with a QB that is older than dirt, and an offensive line that hasn't had to block anybody for more than a second and a half for the last five years.

If the Bombers' defence dominates Hamilton in the same fashion this week, detractors may label it a coincidence, but people will start to take notice. And if this defence continues to hand opponents their teeth in a teacup for a couple more weeks, it will be the M.O. of this team, and something every opponent will have to prepare for.

The Bombers have a lot of things going for them as they take their act on the road to visit a team that doesn't even have their own home stadium this year.

Blueprint

The defence is playing so well Bob Irving couldn't even come up with a comparable equivalent for what they did to Montreal (2011 WAS a long time ago), and their offence, while in need of a blitz defeating blueprint and some ball security, improved exponentially from Week 1 to Week 2.

Hamilton is not only winless so far this season, and essentially playing every game on the road, but like Montreal, they also have a brand new coaching staff and they were the worst team in the CFL last year.

So what makes them dangerous?

Any team still searching for their first win of the season is at varying levels of desperation. While oh and two desperation isn't exactly the same as oh and five desperation, there is still something to be said about the urgency of the prep week for a team that is looking for its first win versus a team that some fans are now sizing up to win the Eastern division.

While pivot Henry Burris is no spring chicken himself, he doesn't get as discouraged as Calvillo does when he gets pummeled in the pocket. In fact, he tends to smile at you and ask you, "what's the weather like in Winnipeg?" as he brushes himself off.

Tiger-Cats head coach Kent Austin knows his way around a CFL playbook and has already won a Grey Cup, and the middle of the Hamilton offensive line, manned by Marwan Hage and Peter Dyakowski, are likely the best center-guard tandem in the CFL right now.

Match-ups are often more telling of how a team will fare than statistics, and Hamilton has some match-up concerns that Winnipeg will need to pay close attention to.

If the 2013 Bombers defence has the tools and coaching to put its stamp on every game, and want to be referred to as "dominant," in more than just a casual association, they will have to be prepared to produce comparable results on an almost weekly basis, no matter what happens to be thrown at them.

 

Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and the second day after each game day in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 9, 2013 C2

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