Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice has identified the issues plaguing his offence in recent weeks. Now, he’s hoping they can fix it before it’s too late.
"There are a lot of things we do very well, whether it be running the football or putting points up. We just got to eliminate critical mistakes, and certainly moving the ball has been OK for us against some good talent," LaPolice told reporters after Tuesday’s practice. "But we’ve just got to eliminate those critical mistakes that can put points on the board and hurt our opportunities to be successful."
The Bombers (5-7) have lost four straight games and now find themselves at the bottom of the West Division. Another loss Friday to the Montreal Alouettes (3-9) and it will be extremely tough sledding for Winnipeg to earn a crossover playoff spot to the East, let alone a top-3 spot in the West.
LaPolice, who is widely considered among the top offensive minds in the CFL and likely to land another head-coaching job in the near future, pointed specifically to turnovers for why the Bombers’ offence is struggling.
Winnipeg is in a three-way tie with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts for the most turnovers in the CFL, with 29. The 16 interceptions they’ve tossed up is just one behind Montreal for worst in the league. The Bombers have been particularly giving of late, committing 13 turnovers during their losing streak.
"It’s proven that any team in the league that loses the turnover margin is going to lose football games. And we’ve certainly lost the turnover margin in a number of games," LaPolice said.
The Bombers, who are fifth in the league with a turnover margin of plus-2, have won every game (5-0) in which they’ve committed fewer turnovers than their opponent. Conversely, they have lost every game (0-5) in which they have more turnovers than their opponent and are 0-2 when tied in turnovers.
The Bombers led the league in turnover margin in the 2016 and 2017 seasons, with a plus-43 mark. Those years the Bombers went 11-7 and 12-6, respectively.
"If we had this turnover margin (we have right now), our record is not going to be what it was the last two years. (It’s) one of the things I concentrate on. That has to be better, and (then) we’re more successful. We’ve got six more games to go to figure it out," LaPolice said.
A big contributor to the turnovers this year has been Matt Nichols. The Bombers’ starting quarterback had eight interceptions in 17 games last year, but has 12 this year in eight fewer games. He’s coming off his worst game as a Bomber, including three interceptions — two of which were returned for touchdowns — in a 32-27 Sept. 8 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Nichols isn’t responsible for every turnover, but it starts with him cleaning up his game.
"You’ve got to trust that he’s going to clean up the mistakes that he’s had. He’s certainly played consistently well at a high level, and we’ve got to continue to get that from him," LaPolice said. "I evaluate the film, evaluate the decisions on the guy and what he has to do. He has to play better. I’m not saying he’s playing fine. But, we certainly believe that he can respond."
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.