In the grisly post-mortem of the Bombers' latest loss, one fact jumps off the page: the patient didn't look that sick until it keeled over in the game.
See, before they were mauled by the B.C. Lions, many Bombers players told media they had a sharp set of practices, that they felt prepared, that they were focused. That's the same thing they said the week before but both weeks ended the same way: another loss, the second more humiliating than the first.
'Part of our problem is we're doing well in practice, but then it's just not translating in the game'
"Part of our problem is we're doing well in practice, but then it's just not translating in the game," coach Tim Burke said on Monday.
That's just the offence, Burke hastened to clarify, which he thought looked sharp in practice leading up to the game. Then the Bombers attack promptly coughed up more points to the Lions via turnovers than it earned. The Bombers didn't practice on Monday, but the coach said he plans to stress this problem today. Not like it's the first time he's had to tell the players that same thing.
"As coaches, you can only point it out," Burke said. "You can't tweak their minds. They just have to see the realization of that's what's happening, and figure it out. Whether it's something they need to focus on, or it's how they prepare themselves for a game... it's something we gotta get to them about. I don't know exactly what the answer is now."
Well, there are some answers. Quarterback Max Hall will get the start against the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday, and there's no doubt the Bombers have moved the ball better with him in the saddle than with him watching on the sidelines. If it hadn't been for those interceptions, Hall's 169 yards and two touchdowns through the air on Friday would have been as fine a bottom line as a Bombers quarterback has put up in a half this season.
Now, the challenge is to eliminate his mistakes. Burke doesn't think Hall's confidence will be a problem -- "he's a competitor, he'll rally" -- but a shorter playbook might help the first-year CFL pivot.
"We were asking him to run some plays, that this is the first year in his career he's ever had to run these types of plays," Burke said. "We'll probably eliminate some of them because those are the plays he was struggling with."
And, of course, it has to work, because there's no immediate help at that position on the way. While some fans wondered over the weekend if the Bombers might find someone, somehow who could bolster the pivot spot, Burke noted it'd be nigh-on-impossible to find a CFL-experienced quarterback right now, as teams gear up for playoffs, and there's not enough time to train anyone they'd bring up from the United States.
The Bombers will get some help, as they will move to expand their roster later this week, with a new player expected to land in Winnipeg today. On the other hand, they're a little banged up. Running back Chad Simpson will likely stay out with a foot injury -- not the same as the one that plagued him last year, but similar, Burke said -- and brand-new American offensive lineman Dan Knapp is out with a head injury.
In place of Knapp, there's a good chance Steve Morley will be healed from his own injury enough to practice and play this week, Burke said. That would return the Bombers' offensive line to two imports, instead of three, which they played last week.
No matter who is in and who is out, only one question matters: can the Bombers start to climb back up now -- has this thing hit rock bottom?
"I hope it has," Burke said, with a sad sort of smile. "I don't want it to get any worse."