December 6, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
THE matchup looks so lopsided on paper, with quarterback Max Hall and his protection against the hungry eyes of Calgary's voracious pass rush.
So one can understand why pundits expect the Bombers attack to break under the pressure of Stampeders defensive bookends Charleston Hughes and Cordarro Law. They rank second and third in the league for hauling down quarterbacks, respectively.
One can also understand why Hall won't waste time on those who don't give him a chance.
-- Bombers coach Tim Burke
"That's fine," Hall said on Thursday. "No one has to give us a shot. As long as the guys here believe in it."
And they do believe, say the players and coaches around the locker-room, despite the thousand little ways this team has found heartbreak and humiliation over the course of a 2-11 season.
Hall says the team is getting better. Offensive lineman Glenn January said the losses are a true test of character.
"You have to go out there and you play for pride," he said.
After putting his squad through its paces on Thursday, Bombers head coach Tim Burke saw something along those lines. The Bombers are still brash, in practice. They raise their voices.
"Their spirits are high," Burke said. "They practised hard this week, they had energy. I think they're going to go out and play as hard as they can play. Hopefully, they play as smart as they can too."
That "smart" part has been the soft spot the Bombers have left open to opponents this year. Every week, they say they're on-point in practice. But most weeks the games have been littered with sloppy play and painful mistakes. consider the two picks Hall threw against the B.C. Lions last week. He swore he would work on cleaning those up before Saturday's game in Calgary.
To do that, Bombers coaches scoured the film and settled on a plan. They took scissors to the playbook, cutting out a handful of plays Hall, in his first year in the CFL, was struggling to make. They also turned some attention to the receivers, tweaking their approach on some plays.
That difference, Burke said, was stressing getting the pass to a certain spot and freeing the receivers to fight their way there. That takes more trust between Hall and his receiving corps, but it also frees the pivot to fire when ready. "The receivers know, 'I have to get to this spot in time,' " Burke said. "I don't care how you get there. By hook or crook, get to that spot. You don't have to run this perfect route."
Some receivers thrive in that approach. Consider Clarence Denmark, who has quietly racked up the most Bombers receiving yards this year, with 560, and the most touchdown snags with three.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 4, 2013 C4