Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ticats sing Blue's praises

Can't say enough good things about Bomber 'D'

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GUELPH, Ont. -- Sometimes it helps to hear an outsider's perspective to appreciate just how special what you have really is.

And so we take you to Hamilton head coach Kent Austin's media availability on Friday, where Austin was asked to rate the defence of the 2013 Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Deep breath

Austin took a deep breath -- he'd had a few false starts at the same question already and obviously wasn't comfortable with it.

'Oh man, they were fierce. The last couple weeks, those guys have played some amazing football... They fly around, they hit like no other, they tackle well and they do a good job of playing pass defence. They're very aggressive'

-- Ticats QB Henry Burris on the Winnipeg defence

But he finally relented and began ticking off a long list of all the things you'd want to see if you were building the perfect CFL defence.

"Well, they have speed," Austin began, "they have the ability to pressure the quarterback, they can collapse the pocket from the inside and the outside -- both off the edge and inside so they can get gut pressure on the quarterback, which flushes the quarterback to their edge rushers.

"They run at the ball well, they're aggressive in the secondary, they cover well, they play their zone schemes very soundly. They space the football field well, both underneath and on the back end. And when they get into man coverage, they're very aggressive and they get after the receivers. And they're good open-field tacklers.

"Is that enough?"

More than enough, in fact. The dominating performance by the Bombers defence in a 19-11 win over Montreal last week was literally one for the ages. CFL stats guru Steve Daniel says that the 122 yards of net offence the Bombers defence gave up to Montreal is among the Top 15 stingiest defensive performances since 1996, a stretch of over 1,200 CFL games.

What's more, the seven sacks the Bombers registered against Alouettes starting QB Anthony Calvillo were the most sacks the Als have given up in six years.

It was a performance that had the offensive minds in Hamilton more than a little concerned this week as they tried to figure out a way to generate some offence against a defence that has forced a league-leading 23 two-and-outs through two games.

"Oh man, they were fierce. The last couple weeks, those guys have played some amazing football," Ticats QB Henry Burris said of the Bombers defence on Friday.

"That young team is up-and-coming and it's led by their defence... They fly around, they hit like no other, they tackle well and they do a good job of playing pass defence. They're very aggressive."

But if that sounds intimidating, Burris wasn't admitting to it. Instead, the veteran Ticats pivot -- who led the CFL the first two weeks with 595 passing yards -- was focused on what a win over Winnipeg this week would mean to his 0-2 team.

"The thing is, everyone has a point during a season when they have to iron out some things. For us, it's been early on," said Burris. "But we're ready to go. We're a confident bunch and we've had a great week of practice."

Burris better be correct in his assessment or things could quickly go from bad to worse for Hamilton -- and not just on the field. The Ticats were unable to sell out their home-opener last week in their temporary home at Alumni Stadium despite having just 12,000 tickets to sell.

A loss to Winnipeg tonight would drop Hamilton to 0-3 and the Ticats' schedule doesn't get any easier. Hamilton plays Saskatchewan -- at 3-0, is the only undefeated team remaining -- in a home-and-home series that opens in Regina next week.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 13, 2013 C2

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