EDMONTON — When you’re looking for lollipops and sugar-coated treats, you’re wasting your time with Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke.
Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium, Burke’s team began badly and then a 25-7 CFL loss to the Edmonton Eskimos descended into near farce.
And when the mess was over, matching the league’s worst teams again with the same record, 2-9, Burke pointed the finger swiftly and harshly.
"Comedy of errors," Burke said to begin his post-game remarks.
He could have stopped there and have nailed it, but he had more to say, in particular about the first quarter that saw the Eskimos roar to a 17-0 lead.
"We had way too many turnovers," Burke said, noting the 4-0 number there versus the Eskimos. "I think our calls on defence in the first quarter didn’t help our players out. I’m just as much to blame for that as Casey (Creehan, defensive co-ordinator) is.
"We did dumb things all throughout the game, penalties, the comedy of the big error at the end of the game where they kicked the ball down the field. I don’t know why we snapped the ball when we snapped it."
What were the bad calls?
"We were expecting... they had tendencies in certain areas so we had calls to be very aggressive against those tendencies and it turned out they changed those tendencies," Burke said. "I’ve been a defensive co-ordinator long enough to know you can’t rely on tendencies because everybody changes, especially with the situation they were in."
The fake and roll
What the Eskimos did was take Winnipeg’s bravado last week, its defensive aggressiveness, and move the goal posts, so to speak.
Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly took off more than expected and finished the night with a key 113 yards of rushing. He managed to elude Winnipeg linemen and rushers by the skin of his teeth on several occasions but that slipperiness helped Edmonton record a touchdown, field goal and touchdown on its first three drives and the 17-0 lead before the first quarter was over.
Winnipeg’s offensive offence
On the other side, the Bombers had their problems, to put it kindly.
It’s nothing new for the team that has averaged less than 22 points per game this season, so the 24-3 half-time hole looked pretty much like game, set and match.
At the break, Burke opted for Max Hall to replace Justin Goltz at quarterback. Goltz’s first three drives were a fumble, a punt and an interception and he recorded five completions in 10 attempts for just 54 yards. Winnipeg had 94 yards of offence at the half, compared to Edmonton’s 272.
"It happens," Goltz said about his fifth start of the season. "We weren’t moving the ball well and I understand why they were making the switch.
"There’s a lot going on but I need to look at myself in the mirror first. Plain and simple I need to protect the football better, especially on the first drive. That’s something we stressed all week.
"I’m not in a position to point fingers."
Burke cited two reasons for the switch, other than the score.
"Turnovers. Decision-making," the coach said.
Yes, a lot going on
Not helping Goltz or Hall were injuries. Tackle Glenn January had to leave the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury and when tackle Marc Parenteau went down after the half, the Bombers scrambled to bring Jake Thomas over from the defensive line, including a jersey switch to No. 66.
"It’s hard at that point for the offence to click," Burke said. "That’s part of it, out of your control, but I was disappointed."
More of the same
The Bombers see the Eskimos next Friday at Investors Group Field but now at 2-9, the situation is getting more grim by the week.
The offence perked up Saturday night under Hall in the second half, ending with 292 net yards, but had just four lousy points to show for the second 30 minutes.
"A lot of it was just our own mistakes, miscues with each other," said slotback Rory Kohlert, who had six catches for 54 yards on the night. "They played well but we shot ourselves in the foot a lot."
Added Goltz about the disappointment after last week’s big home win: "Very frustrating. As a team we played a great game last week. Offensively there’s still stuff we needed to work on. But we came out with great effort to try to improve but obviously we’ve still got a lot of work to do offensively."