Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Game Day: 5 story lines

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Slippery Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris should prove a more elusive target than the lead-footed Anthony Calvillo.

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Slippery Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris should prove a more elusive target than the lead-footed Anthony Calvillo.

1. DEFENSIVE DOMINANCE, THE SEQUEL?

It wasn't just the masterpiece the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defence painted last week, it was who it was illustrated against that made it especially eye-popping for just about everybody that follows the Canadian Football League.

It's rare that Montreal Alouette and future hall of fame quarterback Anthony Calvillo looks so flummoxed and angry during a game. But in limiting him to just 121 yards passing, intercepting him twice, sacking him seven times and limiting Montreal to just 122 yards net offence -- only the fifth time since the Als re-entered the CFL in 1996 that they were held under 200 -- they pulled the plug on A.C., and made a dominant offensive line look porous. As a result, new head coach Dan Hawkins and offensive coordinator Mike Miller are squarely in the crosshairs.

And so the assignment for the Bomber defence this week, especially with the offence dealing with its own challenges, is this: do it all over again against Henry Burris and the Ticats.

"It's different this week because Henry can run," said Bomber defensive end Alex Hall. "He's more mobile, he makes a lot of plays on the run and he likes the deep ball. He's not as young as once was, but he's still a real potent opponent who can make a lot of plays.

"We have a talented group of individuals that really want to get after it and be physical... play the run, defend the pass... everything. We want to do it all and that's what makes a defence great."

2. 'TIS BETTER TO RECEIVE THAN GIVE AWAY

We brought this up after the season-opening loss in which the Bombers spit up five turnovers and finished -4 in the takeaway/giveaway ratio. And we'll bring it up again here until the ugly number starts trending the other way.

Yes, for all the chatter leading into Week 2 about better ball security, the Bombers were once again careless in protecting the pigskin in Montreal.

Get this: in just two games the Bombers have turned the ball over a whopping 10 times (four interceptions, five fumbles and once on downs) and their -6 ratio is the worst in the CFL. Now, consider that while opponents haven't exactly been opportunistic in capitalizing on the Bombers' generosity -- generating just 17 points off those 10 turnovers -- that total does represent 35 per cent of the points the defence has allowed this season.

Imagine what the defence could do with a both a decent breather between series and some decent chunks of real estate to protect.

3. THE BUCK BEATINGS STOP HERE

Football is a violent game played by very large men. And if any player on the gridiron shows any sign of vulnerability, he is most likely to be the first targeted. To borrow a line from Canadian comedian Ron James: "Nothing says weak link in the food chain like a gazelle with a limp wandering around the watering hole."

All of which brings us to Buck Pierce, who has taken some serious licks through the first two weeks of the season and continues to have a size-large bull's-eye painted on the front of his helmet.

Look, no one across the CFL doubts Pierce's toughness. But his durability has been an issue since not long after he first came north to join the B.C. Lions. Do teams seem to target his noggin' more than others? Absolutely. Does Pierce still need to learn to protect himself? No doubt. Should the CFL do more to punish the headhunters out there? Of course.

All of which means this: Bomber fans will continue to cringe every time No. 4 gets knocked around and the club must do everything it can to keep him upright. All of which brings us to...

4. BE THE HAMMER, NOT THE NAIL

The Montreal offence might be cursing their work last week against the Bombers, but the defence may have authored a perfect blueprint to stopping Winnipeg's offence for their CFL brethren. In simplistic terms, they often over-loaded the line of scrimmage to limit Chad Simpson and the ground game and then blitzed the bejeezuz out of Pierce & Co. in obvious passing situations.

Two possible answers to this:

-- Be more proficient on first down. Winnipeg is averaging only 4.9 yards on first down (6.8 yards with the pass, 3.1 yards along the ground) worst in the CFL. Second and long is like slathering a QB in BBQ sauce in front of a hungry defence. Second and short means the offence can dictate the attack.

-- Make 'em pay. Hall of fame coach Don Matthews used to refer to his blitz-crazy defence as "high risk-high reward." So it's up to the Bombers to counter strike and make the risk higher than the reward.

"If they're going to load the box, then we have to beat them through the air," said Bomber head coach Tim Burke. "When somebody blitzes, you have to make them pay. I mean, you have to reverse the tables on them and get big plays so that if they do not get there on the rush then they're exacting a big price."

5. STEP UP, RESERVES

Meet Isaac Anderson, who steps in for Terrence Edwards at receiver. And hello to Jake Thomas who, along with Marquis Frazier, will attempt to replace CFL Defensive Player of the Week Bryant Turner. Another week, another two changes for a squad still trying to establish its legitimacy. But one man's misfortune is another's opportunity.

And in Anderson's case, the opportunity is glorious. As the elder statesman in the Bomber receiving corps, the 34-year-old Edwards isn't getting any younger and auditions are always open in this cutthroat business.

"Isaac is probably one of the fastest guys we have on the team," said Burke, "so he's always ad deep threat because of that speed. Depending on what coverages he gives us, he could potentially be a deep threat."

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 13, 2013 C3

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