Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Five storylines

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1. Will the real Winnipeg Blue Bombers defence please stand up?

Remember how in Week 2, as the Bombers were beating the Montreal Alouettes for their first win of the season, the defence put together what the CFL stats folks later determined ranked among the 15 stingiest defensive performances in the CFL since 1996?

And then remember how that same defence promptly went missing in action for the next two months, regressing week after week after week as the Bombers went into a seven-game tailspin?

Yeah, us too. Which brings us to the biggest two questions of today:

Will the Bombers once again regress tonight in Edmonton after that monster defensive performance against Saskatchewan last week earned the club its second win of the season?

Or was last weekend against the Riders the moment all the ingredients of this team's defence came together in a perfect boil that will now spill over to the rest of the season?

The answer, of course, will determine the fate of this 2013 Winnipeg team. Because if you're counting on the Bombers offence to win games down the stretch, you are doing so despite all evidence to the contrary.

This team, like the unit in 2011 that went to the Grey Cup game, will win -- if it does -- because of the defence and despite the offence.

 

2. Will it be first-half dead-arm Justin Goltz or second-half live-legs Justin Goltz?

The Bombers QB was as hopeless throwing the ball in the first half last weekend -- 2-7 for 12 yards and one INT -- as he was effective at running the ball in the second half against the Riders -- 6-for-56 yards, two TDs.

Some Riders coaches were saying privately this week that they found Goltz extremely difficult to defend against when he had a run-option built into the play-calls and they were confused the Bombers brain trust didn't have him run more in the first half last weekend.

The book on Goltz is that he's sneaky-quick and in a season in which very little has gone right for Winnipeg offensively, Goltz's eight rushing touchdowns -- tied for the league lead -- is something the Bombers need to build on.

 

3. Bombers' blitz?

The eight sacks the Bombers recorded against Saskatchewan last week were the most by any team in the CFL this season and the most by a Bombers team in 11 seasons.

What's more, all those sacks came against what is universally regarded to be the best offensive line in the entire league.

We remind you of that recent history because that same Bombers pass rush will face what is arguably the worst offensive line in the league this week. And that creates an interesting decision for Bombers head coach Tim Burke and defensive co-ordinator Casey Creehan to make:

Do they throw the kitchen sink at the Eskimos tonight like they did against the Riders?

Or do they content themselves with a mostly four-man rush and the expectation that should provide plenty of pressure against an Esks offensive line that has left QB Mike Reilly staring up at the Edmonton night most games this year.

 

4. Second-half weak vs. fourth-quarter strong

The Bombers have lost three games this season that they led at half-time, while the Eskimos are -- by far -- the best fourth-quarter team in the league.

The Esks have a league-best plus-43 scoring differential in the fourth quarter this season and have scored 10 or more points in the final frame six times this year.

The problem for Edmonton has been they're usually so far down on the scoreboard by the time the fourth quarter rolls around, even all those late offensive exploits haven't been enough to register wins.

Put it together and the best practice against Edmonton this year has been to run up a 30-point lead in the first three quarters and then hang on for dear life, which is exactly what Calgary did a couple weeks ago in what proved to be a three-point victory.

 

5. The debut of Tyson Pencer

Such is the anemic nature of the CFL's East Division this year the Bombers find themselves still very much in a playoff race despite the fact they've won just twice this year.

But even with that as a backdrop, at least some of the second half of this Bombers season has to be about building for the future of this team.

And a potential big part of that future debuts tonight when offensive lineman Tyson Pencer, the Bombers first draft pick and third overall in 2012, gets his first regular-season action with a start at right guard.

It's a huge chance for Pencer, who missed all of last year with an injury and waited patiently on the nine-game disabled list again this year. But Pencer will also be on a short hook tonight should he falter, with newly acquired Marc Parenteau dressing as Winnipeg's sixth offensive lineman and ready to sub in at a moment's notice.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 14, 2013 C4

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