Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Aggressive approach pays dividends

Unsuspecting Riders overcome by intensity of blitzing Bomber D

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Chalk one up for the armchair quarterbacks.

Many of us -- fans and media scourges alike -- have been pleading for a blitzing defence for nine weeks now, and this past Sunday at the Banjo Bowl, Christmas came early.

The Bomber defence, co-ordinated by the one of the world's most animated coaches, Casey Creehan, blitzed early and often in this game. Even when initally, Saskatchewan Roughriders QB Darian Durant was able to escape or his offensive line was able to pick it up, the Bombers did not relent.

They blitzed using a number of different players, in a number of different ways, in multiple down and distance scenarios.

They blitzed when you would expect them to, as well as when you would not.

They brought linebackers and defensive backs, and twisted their defensive linemen.

In fact, I would dare say this defence utilized more looks and variations in one game than we had previously seen in the first nine contests.

When speaking with head coach Tim Burke after the game, we asked him why the sudden policy shift to a more aggressive, higher risk/reward blitzing defence.

He told us they had been observing the impressive degrees of success other teams had been having of late, bringing heat, and that it took some time to build up their own blitz package to the extent that was unleashed on Sunday.

Better late than never.

So why did it take until Week 11 of the season to show a different dimension of this tenacious 12?

For weeks on end, fans and scribes alike watched how Blue Bomber opponents would recklessly send everybody but the equipment manager after the freshmen Blue and Gold pivots, and there was seemingly nothing that could be done to stop them.

The reluctance to change, adapt or evolve was most likely the end result of too much success in Week 2 against Montreal.

In case you forgot it, it was a defensive performance for the ages that held the Alouettes to 11 points and, yardage wise, it was a feat that hadn't been accomplished by a defence since 1996. Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo was sacked seven times that game and the Bombers did it sending only the front four.

In my estimation, this is when the defence started chasing rainbows.

The last time defensive co-ordinator Creehan was a major part of this defence was in 2011, and getting pressure with only four rushers was how we did things. We kept eight players in coverage and got to the quarterback on a weekly basis, time and again, using only our defensive line. We had blitz packages ready to go in 2011, we practised them three times a week and they were a part of every game plan, but we never blitzed more than once or twice a game because we didn't have to. It was a scheme and an advantage that made that 2011 defence the best in the CFL, and after Week 2 in 2013, it looked like it could and would happen again.

Only it didn't.

Sometimes when you taste a level of success that is so elite and elusive, you can't stop chasing that outcome.

If you did it once, you can do it again.

If you believe the only thing fallible about your system are the players in it, then you keep trying to fit square pegs into round holes, or you find new pegs.

This past Sunday, the 2011 defensive system evolved and grew up. It took advantage of the speed and athleticism of its players and stopped relying only on the defensive line to disrupt the quarterback. And it did so to great effect.

It was easy to see the Riders were just as surprised by this unrelenting attack as we were up in the broadcast booth and by the end of the fourth quarter they could barely slow the onslaught.

Up until Sunday, we knew the Bombers wouldn't bring more than four rushers, and so did their opponents.

The Bombers won't have that advantage this Saturday in Edmonton, where the Eskimos will no doubt have an arsenal of screens, draws and shovel passes in waiting to counteract this aggression.

Yet, if the Bomber defence plays with the same intensity they brought two days ago, it simply won't matter.

 

Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and the days following game days in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 10, 2013 C4

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