MONTREAL—For a team with former special teams CFL players in the position of CEO, GM and head coach, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers certainly had a miserable Friday night on special teams here at Stade Molson.
In addition to having a convert blocked, the Bombers also had fumbles on two punt returns in the second half - both of them by Demond Washington - during a 34-33 win over the Montreal Alouettes.
But if you were expecting head coach Mike O’Shea to call out Washington after the game, you were looking in the wrong place.
"We put him back out there because we trust him and he’s the guy who’s going to get us field position and get us out of jam," said O’Shea.
"All he’s trying to do is make plays for his team."
All of which was pretty much what Washington’s teammates were also saying, mindful that the same man who fumbled twice on Friday was instrumental in their win a week earlier over Ottawa thanks to a kickoff return for a TD.
"As soon as that game was over, I went up to him and told him, ‘We win as a team, we lose as a team.’ And it certainly wasn’t just those fumbles that put us in that position," said Bombers defensive end Jason Vega.
Washington, who went out of his way Friday night to make himself available to the media, was grateful for the late fourth quarter heroics by the Winnipeg offence that made his flubs a footnote to a very memorable Winnipeg win.
"Those guys are outstanding. They all rallied around me and told me they got my back. They went down and scored and I’m speechless about that. I know it’s about me messing up right now, but it should also be about the great job those guys did on offence at the end. That was a hell of a drive."
With two more failed two-point converts here Friday night, the Bombers are now 0-3 over the last two weeks at two-pointers and even Mike O’Shea admits maybe he’s going to that well too often, or at least too early.
O’Shea said he’d discussed with assistant-GM Danny McManus prior to Friday night’s game whether his decision to go for a two-pointer unusually early in their game July 3 against Ottawa was a mistake -- only to find himself in the same predicament again here when he elected to go for another two-pointer with almost 9 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter and the Bombers trailing 30-28.
That two-point convert and another later in the quarter both failed.
"It was the same situation I think last time," O’Shea said. "And it’s funny because Danny McManus and I talked about it before the game again and you know we discussed it might have been too early at that moment.
"And obviously it proved out (Friday night) -- we could’ve went for the single, kicked those two converts and it would have been a three point game. Boy, I’m very happy it worked out the way it did. we’d obviously have some different discussions right now if it didn’t."
O’Shea says he has a chart on the sidelines that tells him what scenarios he should go for two point conversions, but he says that’s only so helpful.
"Your chart only works if the game is going like your chart. You always have to take into account flow of the game."
Not only were the Bombers unable to contain the Montreal pass rush Friday night - QB Drew Willy was sacked 4 times - Winnipeg was also unable to establish any kind of running game.
Bombers tailback Nic Grigsby - the 2nd leading rusher in the CFL coming into this week and the author of 3 TDs on the ground just a week earlier in a win over Ottawa - mustered just 34 yards on six carries as the Bombers basically abandoned the running game against Montreal.
Grigsby’s yardage on the ground has now fallen dramatically two weeks in a row, from 122 yards in his CFL debut in Week 1 against Toronto to 62 yards against Ottawa to 34 yards on Friday.
And it wasn’t just Grigsby who couldn’t get traction on the ground Friday night - the Bombers finished the night with just 50 yards rushing as a team.
The Bombers took way too many penalties on Friday night, finishing the evening with 15 penalties for 158 yards.
Vega said his team should consider themselves fortunate. "We’ve got to get it together, honestly. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot. We didn’t deserve to win this game by any stretch of the imagination...
"We can’t continue to make those kinds of mistakes and hope to win."
Among the leading penalty offenders for the Bombers Friday night was offensive lineman Cordaro Howard, who took three illegal procedure penalties in his CFL debut at guard in relief of injured Chris Greaves.
Bombers slotback Julian Feoli-Gudino, who made the 18-yard TD catch late in the 4th quarter that won Winnipeg the game, was a free agent signing by the Bombers during the off-season after his former employer, the Toronto Argonauts, opted not to resign a player who was almost exclusively a special teams player in Toronto last year.
All of which combined for sweet vindication Friday night, particularly with Feoli-Gudino’s game-winner coming as it did in a city that he grew up in and learned to play the game.
"I’m just glad to play football," said Feoli-Gudino. "Sweet or not, Toronto gave up on me, I don’t know -- it’s just an opportunity to play football and make plays. I’ve done that my whole life and I’m pretty happy to be able to do it in my hometown."
The Bombers announced Saturday that they acquired import linebacker Abraham Kromah from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in exchange for future considerations.
Kromah spent the last two seasons in Saskatchewan, but had been on the one-game injured list this season in Hamilton, who acquired him during the off-season.