December 11, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Based on the Bombers' recent track record with quarterbacks -- five different pivots have started games since the start of 2012 -- no one is suggesting Max Hall begin sifting through the real estate listings for a spiffy new mansion.
But the 27-year-old former Brigham Young star, a guy who had been out of the huddle for a spell before signing with the Bombers, also knows opportunities like this -- a real chance to revive a career -- are rare.
Here's the iffy part for Hall & Co.: the enormous win-right-freaking-now pressure on this franchise means there is very little patience for QB mistakes (see: Goltz, Justin). Working through a learning curve? Yeah right.
"I'm just going to go out and play football, man," Hall said this week. "There's been so many things going on... all you can do is concentrate on your job and go out and play football. If I keep that mindset, I think I'll play well. But if I worry about all the distractions and worry about if I play bad what's going to happen... you can't play like that, so I won't.
"I keep saying it: this is a great opportunity. Coming here as the third-string guy and now all of a sudden we're not even halfway through the season yet and I have an opportunity for my second start? You don't get that a lot. I want to work hard and take advantage of it, but you can't be overwhelmed by it.
"You can't put too much pressure on yourself because then you play scared and you play worried. You have to go out and execute and don't be afraid to make mistakes."
There's been a ton of discussion this week about the firing of Gary Crowton and how new offensive co-ordinator Marcel Bellefeuille, a man with some serious CFL credentials, has worked to make the attack more "CFL friendly."
Bellefeuille has altered the pass routes to give a quarterback quicker reads, especially against the face of a blitz. Running back Chad Simpson seemed excited when asked about working in a Bellefeuille attack that, in years past, has heavily featured the tailback (Robert Edwards led the CFL in TDs in 2006 in Montreal and from 2003-05 Bellefeuille helped Saskatchewan lead the league in rushing for three straight seasons).
How quickly can there be positive results? Good question, for if the progress is minimal then management will begin overhauling the personnel now that the playbook is under construction.
First and foremost right now is Hall seems more comfortable behind centre.
"(Bellefeuille) has been around a long time and he's just smart," Hall said. "He makes things make sense. I understand what he's trying to get me to do and the pictures he's giving me. Now I need to go out and execute."
Another area to track a possible Bellefeuille imprint: the Bombers have been horrible in making half-time adjustments through the first seven weeks. Hall, for example, was 10-of-12 for 129 yards and one TD in the first half last week but just 8-of-18 for 112 yards with no TDs and two interceptions in the final 30 minutes. Those numbers have to change for the good.
It's one thing for everyone to have been fixated on the Bomber attack this week, what with the coaching change and Hall making his second straight start. But with the offence clearly unable to get into a track meet with their opponents, it's critical for the defence to play more than speed bumps.
Hamilton racked up 445 yards offence a week ago, the third consecutive game in which they've gone over the 400-yard mark. (By comparison, Winnipeg has had over 400 net yards since last Oct. 19).
What's worse is this: in their current five-game losing streak enemy QBs (Henry Burris, Travis Lulay, Bo Levi Mitchell, Ricky Ray and Burris, again) have combined to complete 77.5 per cent of their passes against Winnipeg for 1,625 yards and11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. That is ugly with a capital "ugh."
"We know who we are, but we've had a couple of bad games," said middle linebacker Henoc Muamba this week. "We need to re-establish who we are, and that's playing a fast, physical game with a lot of energy. Ever since I've been here the defence has been the heart of this team and we've been able to lead this team. If we can't do that, then we're not doing our job. We want to get to the point where we are dominant. We've got the guys do it.
"Us talking about it, however, isn't going to get it done. It's time for us to bring it to the field."
There was a stretch in the mid-to-late '90s when a Bomber win in Hamilton was so rare fans started referring to Ivor Wynne Stadium as "Never-Win Stadium." Well, just for the record, that trend has drifted north and west from Steeltown to Guelph. Winnipeg is 0-1 in the Ticats' temporary home, 0-2 if you include the 52-0 spanking in the pre-season. This is significant as the Bombers attempt to avoid being 1-7 at the eight-game mark for the first time in 15 years (0-8 in 1998).
CFL fans saw what the special teams can offer in Thursday's wacky Montreal win over B.C. Tim Brown returned a missed field goal 123 yards for a Lions' score, Tyron Carrier took a kickoff 90 yards to the house for the Als and punter Paul McCallum also hooked up with Anton McKenzie on a fake for 12 yards and a first down.
The Bombers were hammered in the field-position battle in last week's loss to Hamilton -- the Ticats average starting field position was their own 42; Winnipeg's was their own 26 -- and a return TD by Aaron Woods was wiped out by penalty.
Bottom line: when a team is 1-6 no one escapes blame. The Bombers' special-teams units need to be better... just like the rest of this outfit.
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 24, 2013 C4