December 12, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
It was quiet, almost too quiet.
The stony silence from the front office of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was deafening on Saturday, one day after the club's record fell to 1-6 following a 37-18 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Investors Group Field.
The loss was the fifth straight for Winnipeg -- who are also still looking for their first win at Investors Group Field -- and Twitter was alive all day Saturday with calls from Bombers fans to fire everyone from offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton to head coach Tim Burke.
But if more blood-letting -- this is a team, remember, who just finished firing their GM and CEO -- was what fans wanted in the wake of the Hamilton loss, they were disappointed as the Bombers office on Saturday was even more quiet than the Bombers offence the night before.
Head coach Tim Burke, who used to regularly conduct day-after post-mortems with the media following home games, has now done away with that practice and the club didn't offer anyone to speak in Burke's place on Saturday.
And so with no one available to speak on behalf of the team, fans were left to guess what the next move will be for a team that looked Friday night to be in as much disarray on the field as they've recently been off of it.
With the club's next two games on the road -- next Saturday in Guelph against Hamilton and Labour Day Sunday in Regina against the Roughriders -- the general consensus seems to be this Bombers season could rapidly reach the point of no return unless something drastic changes soon.
Burke was noncommittal after the game Friday night when he was asked whether Crowton would still be his offensive co-ordinator this coming week, saying only that everything is on the table right now given the team's dire straits.
Similarly, Burke wouldn't commit to who will be his starting quarterback for the next game, even though the man who started the last one -- Max Hall -- wasn't shy about telling the media Friday night that he felt he did enough against the Ticats to earn another start in Guelph.
Did he? That's an interesting question.
To his credit, Hall had a solid first half against the Ticats and gets credit for so quickly figuring out what all Bombers quarterbacks eventually learn -- when in doubt, throw it to veteran slotback Terrence Edwards.
Edwards was Hall's favourite target all night and he made some clutch grabs -- including a pair of 22-yarders on second down -- that kept a 103-yard Bombers touchdown drive alive in the second quarter.
Hall wasn't nearly as effective in the second half, however, and his three turnovers -- a fumble and two interceptions -- jumped off the post-game stats page, even though you couldn't really fault Hall for the fumble (he got pasted from the blind side) and at least one of the interceptions was the result of a receiver running the wrong route.
While it was nothing spectacular, Hall put in a performance at least as serviceable as anything the other two Bombers starters this season -- Buck Pierce and Justin Goltz -- have put together. And the fact Hall did it in his CFL debut suggests there's at least some more upside there.
The other question left unanswered by the Bombers on Saturday concerns any impending player moves. You can fire all the coaches and front office people in the world, at the end of the day the game is played by the players and a couple of things emerged with crystal clarity on Friday:
1. The Bombers secondary cannot cover.
2. Kito Poblah cannot catch.
Neither of these problems is new, of course -- Burke has expressed his distaste with the secondary and Poblah all season long -- but you have to wonder if Friday wasn't the last straw.
The secondary got torched by Hamilton QB Henry Burris for 250 yards in the first half, while Poblah encapsulated with his drop of an easy TD reception in the second quarter everything that drives Burke crazy about the third-year underachiever.
Winless at home in four tries. A five-game losing streak. A 1-6 season record. Something's got to give in Bomberland -- and soon.
They say it's quietest before the storm. Saturday's silence at Investors Group Field could be the final moments of tranquility for quite some time.
WINNIPEG Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce has more experience than anyone in town at piloting a CFL team and the former Bombers starter liked what he saw in Max Hall's league debut Friday against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
While the Bombers lost the game 37-18 and Hall's numbers were mixed -- 18-30, 241, one TD, 2 INT, one fumble -- Pierce said he thought the man who took his job showed poise.
"I thought he really did some good things. I thought he played with some poise and played aggressive. He didn't play like a guy in his first game in the CFL. He took the throws he wanted to throw and I think he'll learn from it.
"I'm glad he has a game under his belt because I think he shows a lot of promise in this league. I think his attitude is great and he'll continue to learn."
Pierce briefly replaced Hall during the third quarter Friday night after the latter took a hit to the mid-section. Hall later returned and finished the game.
Pierce was asked to characterize the mood in the locker-room of a team that's won just once in seven games in 2013.
"Don't get the idea everyone is hanging their heads. We're all professionals. We've had to pick ourselves up before," said Pierce.
"It's tough. We're looking for answers right now and I really think everyone needs to look at themselves and hold themselves accountable. That's the biggest thing."
SBlt If you were expecting some contrition Friday night from a Bombers secondary that got abused by Hamilton QB Henry Burris, you were looking in the wrong place.
Despite being consistently one of the weakest elements of a struggling Bombers team all season long, the men who make up the Bombers secondary continue to maintain they're actually playing pretty good.
Asked if his unit took a step back Friday night after an improved performance against B.C. a couple weeks ago, cornerback Brandon Stewart said it had more to do with what Hamilton was doing than what he and his teammates were doing.
"I wouldn't say we took a step back," said Stewart. "Different team. They came out with a great game plan, they executed. Burris is leading the league in passing yards for a reason. You guys can't see, you know -- he's putting balls on the money and the concept works right now."
Bombers cornerback Jovon Johnson, meanwhile, offered up a cryptic response Friday night when asked about his unit's struggles. "We don't get to call no shots around here. We just play the game," Johnson said.
Asked what he meant by that, Johnson replied: "We don't make decisions or do anything. We just step on the field, do what we're told and play football."
SBlt Bombers running back Chad Simpson was rendered speechless Friday night when asked what has gone so wrong for his team this season.
"I ain't gonna lie -- I ain't got no answer for that neither. I mean, I could give you some bullcrap but I don't want to. Right now, I thought about your question and I don't have no answer. Sorry."
SBlt As dire as Winnipeg's situation is right now at 1-6, the good news is their misery has company in division rival Montreal Alouettes, whose season record fell to 2-5 on Saturday with a last-second loss to the Roughriders in Regina.
YARDSTICKS: The Bombers brought in new kicker Sandro DeAngelis last week in part because they wanted to get improved distance on kickoffs, but it didn't work out the way Friday night. DeAngelis averaged just 50.0 yards on four kickoffs, while Hamilton kicker Luca Congi averaged 64.6 yards on five kickoffs...The Bombers took a whopping 16 penalties for 137 yards... Hamilton wasn't much better, getting flagged 13 times for 101 yards...Bombers receiver Chris Matthews hurt his foot Friday night and missed much of the game. Head coach Tim Burke said after the game he had no idea how serious the injury was.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 18, 2013 B3