December 8, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Back to what seems to be their level, now comes the hard part for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Carrying optimism into Saturday's CFL contest in Edmonton against the lower-ranked Eskimos, the Bombers fell flat from the start and surrendered 25-7, leaving both teams at 2-9.
So how will Bombers head coach Tim Burke and his staff evaluate the latest mess and try to reassemble the pieces for Friday's rematch at Investors Group Field?
It's hard to know.
Burke didn't have a lot of kind words after the defeat, including for the job done by himself and some of the coaching staff.
Wrong calls or bad calls on defence were made in early Burke said, as the Eskimos and their much-criticized offensive line outfoxed the Bombers to forge an insurmountable 17-0 lead in the first quarter.
-- Bombers quarterback Max Hall
Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly proved very elusive, ending the game with 113 rush yards of his own and 16 completions for 196 yards, three for touchdowns.
And Winnipeg's offence struggled mightily again, resulting in a quarterback switch from Justin Goltz to Max Hall at halftime.
What Bomber issues are priorities?
-- For starters, how much stock to put in what happened later in the game? In other words, how much of it will be labelled garbage time and what is its worth? Goltz moved the Bombers for five first downs and just 93 yards of net offence in the first half, completing five of 10 passes, with one interception and one lost fumble by him.
-- Down 24-3 at the half, the league's poorest offence was in over its head, a situation further complicated by the in-game loss of offensive linemen Glenn January and Marc Parenteau, forcing the team to hurriedly swap Jake Thomas from backup defensive lineman to right guard. So how do you evaluate all that happened in that light?
-- How will Hall's second-half play be seen?
He directed the Bombers to just four points. The deeper stats show he could well have been more successful, given that he tallied 12 first downs, 15 completions in 22 passing attempts and 189 yards of offence, though there was an interception. Extended over a whole game, those offensive numbers would be well above Winnipeg's average this season. And the yardage would certainly have been higher had it not been for one colossal late-game comedy on third and five at the Edmonton 21 yard-line.
Gambling instead of taking a useless field goal, Hall wasn't ready when centre Justin Sorenson snapped the ball, resulting in a turnover and a big loss when the Eskimos booted the loose ball down the field.
Burke gave a few hints on Hall after the game
"He read where he was supposed to go with the ball really well," the coach said. "I thought he took some chances with some passes... I think the receivers helped him out a couple of times and one time they couldn't help him out."
But Burke would commit to no starting quarterback for Friday.
-- It's also worth keeping in mind that with a 24-3 score, the Eskimos reverted to a safer style -- avoiding turnovers and taking fewer chances. Combined with Winnipeg defensive adjustments at the half, Edmonton managed just one point, four first downs and 67 yards of offence in the second half.
-- It didn't sound like Hall was taking anything for granted after the contest, even though he was able to at least move the offence.
"That's a tough question because I'm happy that we moved the ball and happy that I was able to complete some balls and move us downfield, but just disappointed that we didn't finish drives," he said. "We got down in the red zone three times and didn't convert. If we'd just convert down there, we're in the game."
-- Whatever comes out of the evaluation, one thing can't be changed. The Bombers had one of their worst starts of the season on both sides of the ball and that spelled doom.
"We got off to a bad start," Hall said. "It was a tough first half. It's tough being thrown in there when things seem to be going wrong. I was able to kind of get it going but it wasn't enough in the end."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 16, 2013 C3