It was the morning after the long night before and Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke had seen enough game-film to know where much of the responsibility lay for his club’s 38-11 thrashing at the hands of the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium on Saturday.
"Defensively, we played poorly. And after watching the film on the plane ride back, I’d say the defensive line played extremely poor," Burke said at the airport shortly after his team’s arrival in Winnipeg Sunday.
Burke’s singling out of the defensive line is an unusual culprit for a Bombers team on which the defensive line -- which has led the CFL in sacks this season -- has been the least of the team’s problems in this troubled 2-12 season.
So how did the very best part of this lousy Bombers team suddenly become the worst part? Well, Burke has a theory that trade rumours, which first surfaced publicly last week involving Bombers defensive end Alex Hall -- the CFL leader in sacks -- might be to blame.
"I think part of it is that Calgary’s offensive line is very good. But I just wonder a little bit too if all this stir about Alex Hall getting traded, how much effect that had on the D-line group which is a very tight-knit group. I have to believe it has an effect on Alex...
"I don’t know where (the trade rumours) came from. It just says something about social media that anyone can throw something out there, whether it’s true or not and nobody has to even say their name."
The CFL trading deadline is next Wednesday and league sources say the Bombers were last week demanding a second round draft pick and a player off a team’s negotiation list from team’s who inquired about Hall's services.
Hall is a free agent at the end of this season and has made clear that he wants to pursue NFL opportunities next year.
The Bombers defence were held without a sack on Saturday against Calgary and gave up a total of 622 yards in offence to the Stampeders, including 261 yards in rushing. Burke grew so frustrated with his defensive line during the game that he at one point benched Hall and then later singled him out for poor play to the media after the game.
The Bombers will take Monday and Tuesday off this week, before returning to work on Wednesday. The club next plays on Thanksgiving Monday in Montreal in a must-win game against the Alouettes.
Winnipeg is riding a four-game losing streak and now needs to win all four of their remaining regular season games and have Montreal lose all four of theirs in order for the Bombers to qualify for the playoffs.