Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Red zone dead zone for field-goal happy Blue

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IT'S about the Winnipeg offence, specifically its inability to score touchdowns when knocking on the end zone door.

Not to tear open old wounds, folks, but the Blue Bombers were inside the Riders 30-yard line six times during the 25-24 loss to Saskatchewan in the Banjo Bowl, and six times they were forced to settle for a field goal attempt.

Quarterback Joey Elliott, who went 19-of-33 for 241 yards, called it a "lack of execution" after the game. Monday, head coach Tim Burke confirmed that simplistic assessment, adding his own personal take on the increasingly concerning situation.

"We're probably taking too many shots into the end zone, and not gaining enough yards underneath," Burke said.

That might come as a surprise to fans who think the Bombers (2-8) get too conservative when they get close. Either way, Winnipeg's offence has scored a CFL-low 15 touchdowns, hasn't found the end zone in nine-plus quarters of play and is averaging 320 yards per game (also last in the league).

The Blue and Gold attack runs hot and cold during games, an inconsistency that defines the unit right from offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton down to the inexperience at quarterback. Burke mentioned his dissatisfaction with a Crowton play call in the first quarter, citing the time when Winnipeg had it first and goal on the Riders nine-yard line and elected to run a "speed sweep" -- a play that saw receiver Clarence Denmark take the ball out of the backfield and scamper towards the edge.

The Bombers, obviously pressing to score, lost six yards on the play and eventually settled for three points. Despite that example, Burke liked what he saw from his inherited O.C. Sunday.

"I thought our play-calling overall was pretty good," he said, adding he liked Crowton's aggressiveness in the final minutes of the game. "We moved the ball down the field pretty good. I thought we had a pretty good pace, a pretty good tempo going, there was some flow to the game, and we just bogged down in the red zone."

FINANCIAL ADVICE: Break out the wallets, boys.

The head coach said he will fine defensive lineman Kenny Mainor, special teamer James Green and offensive lineman Shannon Boatman for their unnecessary roughness penalties against Saskatchewan. Burke plans to talk to each of them about how their undisciplined actions hurt the team.

QUOTE: "Any time the team loses it's not (a positive). Touchdown or not, I'm disappointed. I'm hurtin' deep right now... I don't see no satisfaction in it at all." -- Demond Washington on his punt return major in the first quarter of Sunday's game. The 82-yard touchdown return was his second of the season.

HONEST TIM: It's not every day you hear a coach admit he made a mistake or two during the furious events of a game, but that's what Burke did Monday. Not only did he again fall on his sword for the now-infamous decision to punt at the end of the game, he also assumed some of the responsibility for the zone defence scheme that allowed Riders QB Drew Willy to move his club into field goal range in the final 28 seconds.

"I wish I would have come after the quarterback more," he said.

With all these admissions of error coming from the head man, does Burke worry he might lose some respect from the players?

"If you're sincere about it, then I think they respect you for it," he said. "I've always said I'll be totally honest with them, just like I'm going to be honest with you guys. I screwed up; I'm going to take the blame for it."

HASHMARKS: Canadian running back Carl Volny will be in the lineup against the Calgary Stampeders Friday night. Volny has missed the first 10 games recovering from a combined knee and hamstring injury dating back to a September game in Toronto last year... Burke said defensive back Johnny Sears is "probable" for Calgary, while right tackle Jordan Taormina is out for another week with a "stinger" suffered in the Labour Day Classic. Twitter: @ wazoowazny

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 11, 2012 C3

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