April 9, 2020

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Opinion

And just when you think you know somebody...

The Bombers’ defensive line puts pressure on QB Matt Nichols during practice at Investors Group Field Wednesday in preparation for Friday’s home opener against Calgary. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

The Bombers’ defensive line puts pressure on QB Matt Nichols during practice at Investors Group Field Wednesday in preparation for Friday’s home opener against Calgary. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/7/2017 (1004 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The large chasm between what our expectations were for the home opener on Friday night and what actually went down is most likely the cause of any frustration fans may be feeling and why many left the contest puzzled about the current state of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Just when you thought you had an idea of where they would excel and how they might struggle, they completely flipped the script on us.

In Game 1, we had all the comfort and security of a familiar offence that performed as we thought it would — a scrappy, gritty effort that produced a dynamic 43 points. It was ball secure. It was multi-dimensional. It was prolific. Point of fact, it was mainly what we saw from the offence last year, and that was comforting. Even the defence in the first game was similar to what we had come to know, but in a somewhat more unsettling way. The D gave up a ton of yards and considerable points, but made some plays, complemented the offence when it counted and helped the team win.

So we approached the home-opener against Calgary with an idea of what the team was and what its identity and characteristics were going to be. Then, without warning or rationale, it turned upside-down on our heads.

The Stampeders, as steady and regular as taxation, were said to be good this year, but not as good as when they romped through the CFL in 2016. They looked vulnerable and showed multiple blemishes during the first two games of the season, where they squared off with the defending Grey Cup champion Ottawa Redblacks. They gave up points on defence and enough yardage to start an agro-business — and now they were on the road to face an offence that had scored 43 points the week before and whose players were sick and tired of hearing how good the Stampeders were and of losing to them even more.

In a complete role reversal, the defence — questioned and fretted over all week — kept the team in the game. The offence — the brightest spot over last season and Week 2 — unloaded all of its 10 points in the first half. You could not predict a more surprising outcome to a game if you were a Kardashian.

Not only was the usually regular and constant offence surprisingly anemic, but it happened against a defence that had almost half of its starters out of the ball game. The starting offence of the Bombers essentially got four quarters of football against the team that usually enters the pre-season in the second half, once the front-liners have decided they got what they needed from the exhibition contest.

This observation is not a quick-drying cement of condemnation for this offence. While scoring 43 points in Game 1 and 10 points in Game 2 is maddeningly inconsistent, it doesn’t mean that over the course of an 18-game schedule the averages won’t end up where we expect them to be. No, this is just a window into why many a fan and observer of this latest game may be confused, as no phase of this football team was what we thought it was — especially against an opponent that seemed to be ripe for the picking. Anytime Stamps QB Bo Levi Mitchell is kept to near 50 per cent passing completions through two quarters of football and the home team goes into halftime with a one-point lead, you expect to be even better in the second half once some adjustments are made.

No one knows what happened, or didn’t happen, in that locker room at halftime, but in the course of this game two phases of this football team forgot what their identities were. The defence that was supposed to be extremely vulnerable really allowed only 22 points (you can’t fault the D for the pick-six). That’s commendable. Unfortunately, however, instead of cleaning up the ball-security issues from the first half and shifting gears, the offence didn’t resemble anything we’ve seen from them either, since Nichols took over in Week 6 last year.

We will get a better idea Thursday night — when the Bombers host the Toronto Argonauts — if the phases we thought we once knew are actually turning into something different now.

 

Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears weekly in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Doug Brown

Doug Brown
Columnist

Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.

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