Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Can't squander that first win

Blue keen to build on positive vibe from victory

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Using a black-and-white filter on perspective, one win barely moves the needle.

Best we know, based on the present condition and what the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have shown through the first five weeks, this is not a playoff team right now. Take a gander at the standings. See any other CFL teams with a single victory heading into August?


There is anecdotal evidence to dispute this, of course, most of it packaged through the relief of the 23-22 win over the Edmonton Eskimos last Thursday -- an outcome that came down to a hustle play from a rookie defensive lineman and the comedic timing of Steven Jyles.

Funny stuff, the fumble-itis of the enigmatic Mr. Jyles, but while the victory saves the Bombers from a further winless slide, it does little to erase the reality that the same Edmonton quarterback marched the ball down the field against the Winnipeg defence with the game on the line. The missed assignments and untimely penalties, they were on head coach Paul LaPolice's post-game fix list, too, not to mention the much-ballyhooed offence has yet to score more than two touchdowns in a game this season.

The room for improvement is the size of an IKEA.

There may not be much difference between a 1-4 record and an 0-5 mark on paper, but that's not where Winnipeg's first win of the season counts, anyway. Progressive perspective viewed through shades of grey suggests the victory should be measured by means of the mind, as the fledgling Bombers -- who play as the youngest team in the CFL -- needed to taste some success to understand what it takes to win.

"There's some real truth to that," defensive end Jason Vega offered following the win Thursday night. "Winning (a game) is a stepping-stone for a lot of these guys, where you start to feel good about yourself. Not to the point where you feel too good about things, but it's a confidence thing.

"We needed some positivity."

Consider this: 15 players on the Bombers' 42-man roster registered their first CFL win last Thursday, an incredible number when you consider this club won 10 regular-season games in 2011. Puts the roster turnover in perspective a bit, no?

"Now they know what it takes... we can play even better," receiver Terrence Edwards said. "We can't just put a good half together like we did (Thursday), we have to put a whole game together now."

On the outer rim of perspective relative to the Bombers' win Thursday was the suspension of a topic players were growing a little tired of. Starting the season winless in four tries was hard enough to handle; dealing with the daily questions about said losing skid was equally aggravating.

"We got more frustrated talking about it," Vega said. "Almost every interview started off with that, right? 'Why haven't you won a game yet?' or 'What's wrong with the team?' It's not that we weren't thinking about it, of course guys are, or something that's not on our mind, it's just that we're tired of talking

about it."

Only one way to stop those questions, right?

Winnipeg, back on the Canad Inns Stadium practice field this morning, isn't out of the woods yet. They are still a one-win team and a step back against the struggling Montreal Alouettes (2-3) Friday night would not only diffuse any momentum they extracted from the Edmonton win, but it would also reheat the discussion about the direction of the team.

Edwards' veteran perspective gets the final say:

"The goal is trying to get this thing back to .500," he said as the club celebrated Thursday's win. "Look around, the guys like this feeling. They're tired of feeling the other way -- I'm tired of feeling the other way -- and we're going to build on it. We have to build on this now.

"If we don't, this win means nothing." Twitter: @wazoowazny

WINNIPEG (1-4) starts its three-day practice cycle this morning, in advance of a visit by the Montreal Alouettes (2-3) to Canad Inns Stadium Friday night. Three areas of interest this week include:


Weak-side linebacker Marcellus Bowman should be back on the practice field in a full-time capacity.

The third-year Bomber has missed basically everything since the start of training camp and has forced the club to hold a continuing audition in his spot. Dustin Doe, Terrell Parker and even Henoc Muamba have seen time in his place, but no one has been able to grab hold of the position.

Bowman, who has been dealing with a lower-body injury, tweeted out his anticipation regarding his return late last week and if he shows well in practice, one figures the coaching staff will not hesitate to insert his experience into the defensive front seven.


Expect the message of 'focus' to be a popular theme during preparation, as the Alouettes are the only thing standing between the Bombers and the bye week.

Winnipeg cannot afford to fall to 1-5, and with games on the horizon against Hamilton and B.C. -- two clubs that looked pretty good in wins over the weekend -- finishing the first third of the season on a high note is paramount.

Under head coach Paul LaPolice, Winnipeg is 1-1 in the pre-break game. They beat B.C. in Vancouver 30-17 last season and were hammered in Montreal in 2010. Since the 2005 season, Winnipeg is 4-5 in games before the bye week (CFL clubs had two breaks in the schedule in 2005-06).


The Bombers aren't the only club under the gun this week. Montreal has lost two straight games and looked old on offence and dishevelled on defence in a 23-20 loss to Toronto last Friday. Some good news for the Alouettes: The Argos game was the first time the defence allowed less than 30 points this season.

Going back to last season, Montreal has just two wins in its last eight regular-season games. The Alouettes beat the Bombers 41-30 in Week 2 this season. Buck Pierce played most of the game for Winnipeg before being lifted in favour of Alex Brink late in the contest.


-- Adam Wazny

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 30, 2012 C3

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