December 6, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
In the darkness of the hours after the Winnipeg Blue Bombers dropped their season opener, coach Tim Burke didn't sleep much, although he tried.
Instead, the Bombers coach lay awake as endless replays and revisions of the 38-33 loss to the Montreal Alouettes flashed through his mind.
"Anytime you don't win, you try to go to sleep, but it just replays," Burke said Friday afternoon, his gravel voice heavy from the long night before. "Over and over and over."
What busted plays or botched calls loomed largest in the night, Burke didn't say. If the fourth-quarter decision to send out punter Mike Renaud -- instead of giving up a safety -- was ever one of them, by Friday afternoon the coach stood firm. That decision, with the Bombers pinned in their own end, was ballyhooed by some fans.
"If you take a safety there... they end up getting good field position anyway," Burke said. "I felt like our defence was playing pretty well at that point, and so if we stopped 'em immediately, they wouldn't get anything. If we didn't, we'd give up the field goal, which was only one more point."
If Burke had to make that call again, he said, he'd "do it the same way." So if that isn't the right situation for the Bomber boss to put a player on his knee, when would it be? "It's just a matter of whether you believe in giving safeties up or not," Burke said. "If your defence is playing well, I don't feel like you need to give up a safety."
And Burke did feel like the defence was playing well on Thursday night. The defensive line had some "great moments," he said, although there were some stumbles. "I thought we had pretty good pressure on (Alouettes quarterback Anthony) Calvillo for most of the night," he said. "I was pretty happy with them overall."
Now, though, he must look forward, past the wrenching first-game loss and towards a rematch next week in Montreal, where the Bombers will attempt to take back the points on July 4.
Step 1: Find a way to squeeze more creativity into offensive plays, to keep drives alive. The Bombers made only 11 first downs on Thursday, and none in their impotent fourth quarter as they watched a nine-point lead vanish.
"Until we stop turning the ball over, we're not going to win any games," Burke said. "If we can stop turning the ball over, we're a good enough team to beat anybody."
The team will have to do it down a pair of men: Canadian linebacker Ren© St©phan will be out a month with a wounded hamstring, and defensive tackle JT Gilmore will be down for a four-week count with a calf injury.
Losing the non-import St©phan, Burke noted, will put a cramp in his ratio; having the "explosive" Gilmore out stings.
"We were really happy with where he was as far as developing into a good defensive tackle," Burke said. "Now, you go to another guy who you don't consider to be quite as good."
That guy will be Zach Anderson, a "relentless" player who will come off the practice roster. Anderson joined the Bombers this year after wrapping up his NCAA career at the University of Northern Michigan.
On the plus side, Burke said quarterback Buck Pierce, who was seen limping a little during the game, is fine -- at least, as far as injuries are concerned. Asked to rate his starter's performance, which included three picks beginning with the Bombers' first offensive play of the game, Burke was terse.
"He'll have better ones," he said.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 C4