CALGARY — The question is no longer whether this 2012 edition of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers is better than their woeful record might suggest.
The question now is whether they might actually be worse than the putrid that 2-9 would seem to indicate.
A seemingly limitless list of pejorative adjectives leaps to mind, but let’s just go with ‘gutless’ to describe the unmitigated embarassment that was a 44-3 Bombers loss to the Calgary Stampeders here at McMahon Stadium Friday evening.
If it seemed like the lowest point in what has been a season-long search by this franchise to find ever deeper levels of the subterranean, that’s because it’s exactly what it was.
"We’re at the bottom. We’re the lowest of the low right now," said Bombers tailback Chad Simpson, a lone bright spot on offence last night with his 13 carries for 86 yards.
"And there’s no way but up right now when you’re on your back staring up at the sky."
Where to begin?
The Bombers defence was so bad that by the second quarter, the question wasn’t whether Calgary receiver Nik Lewis was going to get the 77 yards he needed to reach 10,000 career receiving yards, but rather whether Lewis might hit 20,000. In the end, Lewis had to settle for 7 catches for 131 yards.
"I can’t even tell you exactly what went wrong because so many things went wrong," said Bombers defensive back Johnny Sears. "It just dominoed and snowballed and got ugly before it got better."
The Bombers special teams couldn’t catch, tackle or sniff out a fake field goal that went for a first quarter Calgary touchdown and got the rout started.
And then there was a Winnipeg offence that put up -3 yards in the first quarter and just 54 yards in a first half that saw the Bombers stake the Stampeders to a 27-0 advantage heading into the locker room for halftime.
A six-pack receivers package couldn’t have been less effective if each receiver had drank one, starting QB Joey Elliott didn’t get out of the second quarter before he got the mercy hook (he was 5-8 for 26 yards and an interception) and Winnipeg’s drought without an offensive touchdown extended for another game and is now, depending on how you want to measure it, either three complete games, 13 quarters or 199 minutes and 15 seconds.
"I don’t know whether I’m getting more tired of losing," said offensive tackle Glenn January, "or that I don’t know how to fix it."
Speaking of droughts, the Bombers winless streak is now four games, their road record this season is now 0-6 and head coach Tim Burke is 0-3 since taking over as the Bombers field boss in late August.
Burke said he feels his team is trying, but something else is missing. "There’s a difference between trying hard and being totally emotionally invested in something. And the other thing is when adversity happens, a mature team can handle that.
"And right now we’re not handling it."
Burke was asked if he thought the return of QB Buck Pierce next Friday in Winnipeg when the Bombers host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats could get the team back on at least an upward trajectory. "I think it’s a little bit unfair to put it all on (him). I’m sure we will get an emotional boost from Buck being out there and he is our starting quarterback...
"So I’m hoping that gives us a lift. But the rest of the team has to pick it up."
One final thing —- The Bombers have now been out-scored 204-64 in the first-half this season and have been out-scored 121-27 in their last three games.
FIELDNOTES — Third string QB Justin Goltz finished the game for the Bombers...Brink finished the night 6-14 for 55 yards...Winnipeg defensive tackle Brandon Collier and defensive back Brandon Stewart both suffered apparent right leg injuries and didn’t finish the game.