Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–3–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Five storylines

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1. FAST-FORWARD TO THE FINISH OR FASCINATING DRAMA?

There has been a certain death-march aspect to the nightmare that is the 2013 Winnipeg Blue Bombers for weeks now. This is what happens when GMs get fired, CEOs get turfed, offensive co-ordinators are canned, quarterbacks are traded, CFL sack leaders are shipped out... you get the idea.

But there was a point during last week's 38-11 loss to the Calgary Stampeders when even the most diehard Bomber fan had to look away in disgust. Yes, this fascination with awful -- the "how bad can this get?" aspect to this story -- began fading long ago. Now the question, sadly, is whether this team can even be competitive any more this season.

Consider this:

-- The loss in Calgary was by a 27-point margin, and the week before, there was a 36-point difference between the Bombers and B.C. Lions (53-17).

-- Only twice in the Bombers' last 10 defeats has the margin been single digits.

-- During the four games since the Banjo Bowl victory, all losses, the Bombers have lost by an average of 22.25 points.

-- In 2010, Paul LaPolice's first year as head coach, the Bombers went 4-14 but lost nine games by four points or less. This season, they've lost eight games by 13 points or more.

2. THE PIVOTAL DUEL -- WHICH QB CREW STINKS LESS?

This isn't exactly how the CFL marketing types like to hype the pass-heavy, three-down game: With Anthony Calvillo on the shelf and the Bombers looking for an answer at the QB position, Monday's matchup features the two most inept aerial offences in the land.

Yessir, get your tickets now.

The Als and Bombers QBs have combined to throw 26 TDs (only eight by Winnipeg) against 44 interceptions. Not surprisingly, the team QB ratings -- 74.7 for Montreal, 61.5 for Winnipeg -- are the CFL's worst. That 61.5 Bomber QB efficiency rating is an interesting number and serves as a point of reference: By comparison, in 1998 Bomber QBs Chris Vargas, Troy Kopp and Jay Walker combined to throw 16 TDs against 27 interceptions for a rating of 63.5.

Montreal has some prospects remaining in their big picture.

Tanner Marsh came off the bench to author a come-from-behind win over B.C., and Josh Neiswander -- making his third straight start last week in Edmonton -- completed 15 of 25 for 250 yards and four TDs against one pick. Those numbers would have Bomber coaches drooling.

3. WOE IS THEM

It's been mentioned more than once this week since defensive end and CFL sack leader Alex Hall was traded to Saskatchewan for Patrick Neufeld and an exchange of picks that the move caused some angst in the Bombers clubhouse.

After all, Hall was a popular and consistent contributor to the defence, and how the club reacts to that deal will mean... well, what exactly?

Are they going to be so filled with grief the play of the collective is going to drop off dramatically? Would fans even notice as the yards and scoreboard numbers piled up against them again?

When a team is 2-12 and spiralling downward, the more blunt question might be this: Who cares what the players think right now?

This team is in need of an overhaul, and if a move like the Hall deal can fire up the Bombers, perhaps it should have happened earlier.

4. THE BURKE DEBATE

A few eyebrows were raised earlier this week when Tim Burke said this when asked by Free Press colleague Paul Wiecek whether he thought he'd done enough to earn the chance to try again next year as head coach:

"I think so. But that's not up to me to make that decision. But yeah, I do... Certainly, I don't think I will go through any more adversity than I did this year. So I think if I stayed strong through this, I will be a better head coach in the future."

OK, so to be fair, Burke has been working with a crap hand for a while. The Canadian content has been iffy, the QBing even worse. But there's also no running away from a 6-18 record over the last couple of years.

And while there's been a constant airlift of talent being brought in and shipped out, if there is still a debate on this issue, then Burke and his staff have four games left to showcase some of their skills -- a wrinkle or two, some obvious in-game adjustments, an inspired effort by the troops -- that make them worthy of being considered.

5. HEY, #$&^@&!!... HOW ABOUT A SILVER LINING HERE?!

Now, before you draw little devil horns on the mug shot that accompanies this story, some subplots to track Monday afternoon that might make the Bomber game interesting:

-- The Bombers are a solid 5-4 in their last nine visits to McGill, including a 19-11 win on July 4 this year in which the defence authored a dominant performance.

-- Will Ford is one of the few faces who seems to be taking advantage of the auditioning-for-next-year opportunity this season's disaster is presenting. With Chad Simpson injured again and gonzo, Ford danced for 156 yards on just 11 carries last week and returned a kickoff for a 100-yard TD en route to being named CFL Special Teams Player of the Week. That screams out a 2014 invitation.

-- Greg Peach, who replaces Hall at defensive end, has three sacks in just five games this year. Debate among yourselves: Was Hall a great pass rusher or was it the system that made him great? The Bombers are also intrigued by the potential of what new end J.D. Griggs, cut by Jacksonville this year, can do along their front four.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 12, 2013 C4

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