The Winnipeg Blue Bombers running game, which had been vastly improved in recent games, ran into a brick wall against the Toronto Argonauts in a 36-21 Bombers loss at Rogers Centre Thursday evening.
Tailback Will Ford, who'd gained 325 yards rushing in the three games leading up to Thursday's contest, was held to just 32 yards on nine carries.
Ford said after the game that his recent successes on the ground made him a Toronto target -- as their defence made clear to him before the game even began.
"When you have a few good games, they start keying on you. You're a target now so you've got to get those dirty runs," Ford said after the game Thursday night. "I was just trying to move those sticks because I knew the defence -- they came in telling me, 'Hey Will -- not tonight.' I was just trying to earn those hard yards and keep the sticks moving."
Ford's longest run of the night -- a 14-yard carry midway through the fourth quarter -- came at a critical time in the game and would have put the Bombers on the Argos 24-yard line, trailing by just a converted touchdown. But the run was called back on a holding penalty on slotback Cory Watson and the Bombers ultimately had to punt after the drive stalled one play later.
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Bombers QB Max Hall was making use of a cane when the team's flight home from Toronto landed in Winnipeg Friday morning.
Hall was hurt late in the fourth quarter Thursday evening on a hard hit from Argos linebacker Marcus Ball. Hall left the game and did not return.
Bombers head coach Tim Burke told reporters in Winnipeg Hall sustained a hip-pointer on the play. Burke said Hall was feeling better on Friday, but it still wasn't clear if he'd be well enough to play in his team's final regular-season game Nov. 2 at home against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
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Defensive back Jovon Johnson was reluctant to heap too much praise Thursday night on Argos QB Ricky Ray, who set a personal record with 505 yards passing against the Bombers.
"The majority of it was just us giving him a lot of those yards," said Johnson. "He's a smart guy -- he takes the open guy, he throws the open pass. And the yards after the catch is what really hurt us.
"Look, Ricky Ray is a hall-of-famer and he's usually going to play well. He didn't play well against us last week, but he did tonight. And we just didn't play up to our capability."
Johnson once again played the majority of his reps on defence at safety Thursday night and Winnipeg will have a decision to make about their veteran cornerback in the off-season.
The general consensus is Johnson lost a step at corner this season but played well at safety, for the most part, down the stretch -- and was certainly a clear and demonstrated upgrade on the club's regular starter at that position, non-import Cauchy Muamba.
The problem is Johnson carries an American passport and CFL teams generally like to start Canadians at safety, meaning the Bombers would have to juggle some ratio issues if they decide to make Johnson their regular safety next season.
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A total of 26 penalties for 234 yards were handed out Thursday, including six for unnecessary roughness and two each for roughing the passer and objectionable conduct.
That sounds like two teams who don't like each other much.
"It's a rivalry alright," said Johnson. "Two teams in the same division, we play each other a lot of times, it gets chippy out there on the field."
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Bombers slotback Wallace Miles made the most of a rare start in the Bombers offence, hauling down six catches for 100 yards and a TD Thursday night.
While it's too late to make much difference this season, Miles said he's hopeful coaches remember what they saw from him this week when the time comes to make decisions for 2014.
"I've been working all season for a job next year. So it was good to come out here and show in an actual game that I can play," said Miles. "I don't know if I have a job next year, but I'm definitely trying to work for the positive."
Miles also showed he can take a hit. Horse-collared in the second quarter by Argos cornerback Pat Watkins and thrown to the ground head first, Miles left the game but returned to play on in the second half. â
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