Heartbreak lives here. Address: 1465 Maroons Road, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, referred to by many last week as the best 3-8 team in the Canadian Football League, should now be described in this manner: The most confounding, snakebitten, frustrating- to-watch, can’t-finishwhenit-matters, absolutely cursed 3-9-outfit in the land.
The Bombers gave up a 48-yard Anthony Calvillo to Brian Bratton touchdown with 1:18 remaining and fell to the Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes 44-40 Friday night in front of 26,154 at Canad Inns Stadium in one of those classic CFL track meets.
The Bombers had built a 40-31 lead in the fourth quarter, but were outscored 13-zip by Calvillo & Co. when it mattered most. And so, in the course of six days the franchise has suffered two of the most devastating losses in recent memory.
But what will be especially debated in the wake of the loss was the officiating by referee Murray Clarke and his crew, their handiwork punctuated on the game-winning score when an Alouettes receiver on the other side of the field — and right in front of the Bombers bench — was clearly offside.
"I probably can’t comment about that, but it’s getting very hard for me to stand in front of a room of men who played their tails off and say the calls were consistent," said head coach Paul LaPolice. "It looked like on the last touchdown they had a receiver three yards offside."
The defeat was especially gutwrenching, given a win over the Als would have put the Bombers ahead of the B.C. Lions by two points in the chase for a crossover playoff spot. The Lions, 3-8, are in Calgary to face the Stampeders tonight and the Bombers now head to Vancouver next weekend for the start of a crucial home-and-home series with B.C.
"That’s a new way to lose a game...
I can’t remember anything like that happening," said Doug Brown. "Something transpired that was out of our control. What can we do now? I’ve been on some really good teams here and some really bad teams. Usually on the bad teams you deserve what you get.
But I don’t understand what’s transpiring this year because the guys on this team are so much better than 3-9."
Among the developments for the Bombers in a loss that will be debated all week:
- LaPolice had asked his squad, particularly the offence to rebound after last Sunday’s soul-sucking loss to Toronto and his troops did — at least statistically.
Winnipeg racked up 401 yards offence and QB Steven Jyles threw for four scores, but with the game on the line it was Calvillo who was brilliant, while the Bomber pivot couldn’t push his team into range for a possible game-winning field goal when Winnipeg was down 41-40.
The Bombers were especially critical of the five pass interference calls against them in the game, that totalled 80 yards. As well, the Bombers maintain the review on an apparent fumble by Jamel Richardson with 1:48 remaining was incorrect.
"We’ve got to flush this one with two big games coming up against B.C....
but that’s going to be real hard," said defensive back Jovon Johnson. "You definitely feel like putting your fist through a wall after one like that, but that wouldn’t be smart.
"We gotta keep playing. I mean, what can you do? Our offence played and our defence just has to make more plays. But when you’re getting flagged for pass interference calls like that...
I guess in this league you must not be allowed to touch receivers.
"That’s the way it goes, I guess.
We’ve got to suck it up."
The loss spoiled a spectacular debut for new receiver Greg Carr. The mammoth 6-foot-6 Florida State product pulled in four passes for 185 yards and touchdowns of 71 and 74 yards. And he did it in just over a half of work after pulling up lame in the third quarter with a bum ankle.
- Jyles completed 18 of 32 passes for 328 yards and four TDs — the two to Carr along with strikes to Terrence Edwards and Aaron Hargreaves. But he also failed to make the critical plays in the game’s decisive moments, a movie Bomber fans have seen before.
"You have to keep playing and understand there’s still six games left," said LaPolice. "There’s a lot of football left to be played. We’ll show up, keep playing and we’ll play our tail off.
"I told them that nobody’s happy how tonight went. I told them I was proud of their effort and how they played and that if they play like this the rest of the year they’ll be in the playoffs.
"We’ll bounce back."