July 19, 2018

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Improved defence pleases Hall

When Richie Hall was asked what he liked most about his defence in Saturday’s 41-19 home win over the B.C. Lions, it came as little surprise to hear him point out the three interceptions they finished the game with.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who improved to 2-2 with the win, had one of their best defensive efforts in what’s been an up-and-down time for the unit through the first month of the season. But defensive co-ordinator Hall, who has been criticized for much longer than four weeks over his group’s inability to stop the big play downfield, wasn’t about to put his team’s total takeaways at the very top of the list.

“Most important is we won the football game,” Hall said after Wednesday’s practice. “When it’s all said and done, we had one more point than they did, so that was the best part.”

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THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods</p><p>Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Jackson Jeffcoat, Tristan Okpalaugo and Adam Bighill celebrate the sack of BC Lions quarterback Jonathon Jennings during CFL action in Winnipeg Saturday. </p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Jackson Jeffcoat, Tristan Okpalaugo and Adam Bighill celebrate the sack of BC Lions quarterback Jonathon Jennings during CFL action in Winnipeg Saturday.

When Richie Hall was asked what he liked most about his defence in Saturday’s 41-19 home win over the B.C. Lions, it came as little surprise to hear him point out the three interceptions they finished the game with.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who improved to 2-2 with the win, had one of their best defensive efforts in what’s been an up-and-down time for the unit through the first month of the season. But defensive co-ordinator Hall, who has been criticized for much longer than four weeks over his group’s inability to stop the big play downfield, wasn’t about to put his team’s total takeaways at the very top of the list.

"Most important is we won the football game," Hall said after Wednesday’s practice. "When it’s all said and done, we had one more point than they did, so that was the best part."

Still, the three interceptions — a number that doubled the defence’s total this year to six — were hard not to see as a defining moment for the defence. After all, it was the first sign this year that perhaps the defence was turning a corner, returning to the kind of outfit that over the past two years was built on taking away the ball.

Hall was asked if he saw them as a return to the ball-hawking identity the defence prides themselves most on.

"I would say yes, but when you look at takeaways, they come in bunches. So, I’m not worried about that. I’m more worried about us executing and make sure we’re getting around the football to have those opportunities," Hall said. "The big plays, those were good. They led to points and we were able to contribute in that aspect of the football game."

BIGHILL FILLING BIG HOLE: Adam Bighill continued his dominant play in his first year with the Blue and Gold, showing just how badly a solid veteran middle linebacker is needed in a defence. Bighill, who signed as a free agent in May after spending last season with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and six before that with B.C., recorded two of the Bombers’ three interceptions against the Lions, returning one of them 55 yards for a touchdown.

Needless to say, he continues to leave a positive impression on his new coaches.

"He’s a playmaker. You don’t get to be MVP of the league by just being an ordinary person," Hall said. "And I think as each week goes, he becomes more comfortable regarding the scheme that we do, the players that he’s playing with and taking his abilities and implementing them into the scheme of things. He’s just going to continue to get better, we’re going to continue to get better defensively and, hopefully, we see it on the football field."

TOO EARLY FOR THIRD-QUARTER BLUES: The Bombers have had no problem scoring this season. Through four weeks, they have recorded the most points in the CFL, averaging 36 per game — five more points than the Calgary Stampeders, who currently sit in second. But as good as it’s been, Winnipeg has struggled to put up points in the third quarter, averaging just four points in the first quarter after halftime.

It’s something that hasn’t kept Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea from losing any sleep.

"Ah, it’s early in the season. It’s not fair to say the third quarter is not a good quarter for us," O’Shea said. "We didn’t spend any time in practice today saying, ‘It’s the third quarter, start trying.’ I’m pretty pleased with the way our guys handle halftimes and I listen to them talk. The other team adjusts too, right?"

BOMBERS CONFIRM HECHT SIGNING: The Bombers made the signing of Canadian defensive back Jeff Hecht official Wednesday morning. Hecht, who was signed to a one-year deal, has seven years of experience in the CFL, most recently with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Last season with the Riders, the 32-year-old Edmonton native played in all 18 games, registering 21 defensive tackles, 11 special-teams tackles and one forced fumble. He is expected to ease the loss of Derek Jones, one of the Bombers’ best special teamers, while also providing national depth behind safety Taylor Loffler.

ON THE MEND: Of the 24 starters in the win over the Lions, only strong-side linebacker Chandler Fenner was inactive Wednesday. Fenner attended practice and is expected to return to the lineup for Saturday’s rematch in Vancouver. Defensive back Brandon Alexander, who has missed the past two games, was also out and is considered questionable for this week.

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

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.

Read full biography

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