MONTREAL -- And with that, the 2012 edition of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers has now lost one more game in the first two weeks of this season than they lost in the first two months of the season last year.
That 7-1 record the 2011 Bombers stormed out to en route to an appearance in last year's Grey Cup is now just a fond -- but increasingly distant -- memory as this year's club fell to 0-2 at Stade Molson last night with a 41-30 loss to the Montreal Alouettes.
Als QB Anthony Calvillo and RB Brandon Whitaker rendered this one something akin to a sandlot contest, as Calvillo went 31-of-39 for 443 yards and three TDs, while Whittaker rumbled for 235 all-purpose yards and three TDs on a sweltering summer night.
In all, the Als registered 551 yards in net offence -- an embarrassment for a Bombers defence that looked in a Week 1 loss to the B.C. Lions like it would once again be the best part of this Bombers team, only to have all of its flaws laid bare Friday night.
"Whitaker just had the greatest Christmas of his entire life with all the gifts we were giving him," said Bombers cornerback Jovon Johnson. "We just did a poor job of seeing things and reacting to him. We were a step late on everything and that's not acceptable for a defence like ours."
But the self-criticism was not reserved for the Bombers defence on a night when the offence -- while markedly improved over Week 1 -- and special teams also authored critical penalties that represented a swing of 14 points.
A Brady Browne offside penalty on a third-quarter Montreal punt handed the ball back to the Alouettes, who promptly marched down the field for a touchdown, while a fourth-quarter procedure penalty on rookie tackle Jordan Taormina on the Montreal one-yard line ultimately snuffed out whatever designs the Bombers had on a late-game comeback.
Bombers QB Buck Pierce -- who had a respectable, and healthy, game, going 18-of-26 for 255 yards, one TD, one INT and one fumble -- could not contain his disgust after the game.
"We're just not very disciplined right now. That's really what it comes down to," said Pierce. "Look at the penalties, the execution at times -- it seems like we're still in our learning phase instead of understanding what we're doing and going out and executing.
"I'm frustrated at myself and the loss. It's tough. I thought we executed very well until the 20-yard line, but then we got to the 20-yard line, we couldn't put the ball in the end zone."
"We made some improvements and we looked like a pretty efficient offence at times, but we left a lot of stuff out there and I'm disappointed by that."
Winnipeg kicker Justin Palardy had short field goals of 10, 18 and 23 yards on stalled Bomber drives.
Still, the 371 yards of net offence the Bombers generated was just better than double the 185 net yards they mustered last weekend in B.C. Winnipeg receivers Terrence Edwards and Chris Matthews both had big games, with Matthews pulling down eight catches for 131 yards and a touchdown while Edwards had six catches for 126 yards.
The Bombers also showed the first glimmers of generating a running game, as tailback Bloi-Dei Dorzon -- who was held to just four yards on five carries by the Lions -- rushed for 52 yards on seven carries.
The other highlight for Winnipeg was the continued spectacular play of punt returner Demond Washington, who followed up a standout performance in B.C. by running back an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter to get the Bombers within a point of Montreal at 24-23 at that point, in a game in which they spotted the Als a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice wanted nothing to do with any excuses of youth -- the Bombers are the youngest team in the CFL -- leading to the costly penalties. "Those are critical mistakes. I don't care how young you are, how little football you've played, we're grown men -- we can't make those mistakes," said LaPolice.
The Bombers played the entire second half without defensive back Alex Suber, who suffered a lower-leg injury in the first half. LaPolice said the injury was not believed to be serious.
The Bombers are now halfway through a four-game road swing to start the season, with games to play next Friday in Edmonton against the Eskimos and then -- after a very short turnaround -- the following Wednesday in Toronto against the Argonauts.