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This article was published 24/7/2017 (1523 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When all was said and done, after an entertaining see-saw battle against the big-play B.C. Lions, it was not simply the fact that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers attempted and failed to convert a third-and-15 play from their own 26-yard line in the fourth quarter that was cause for concern.
Instead, it was an over-reliance on irregular, non-fundamental plays that they knew they had to convert in order to keep pace with the Lions.
After four games — nearly a quarter of the way through the year — this is a solid football team. Not a great team, but one with with talent that is highly responsive to momentum swings with 14 games remaining on the schedule.
The Bombers have fallen short in two games against the Western Division's best; they had trouble trading punches with Calgary for a full contest; and they couldn't hold on to a sizable lead against B.C.
While everyone appreciates the guts, creativity and schematic intelligence to out-manoeuvre the opposition on special teams, the question is how many times the opposition will fall for the sleight of hand; what happens when the guys on the other side are on to you?
On Friday night, playing on the road against the CFL's highest-scoring squad, the blue and gold racked up 42 points. But upon closer inspection, just half of those points were generated by the offence without huge input from the defence and the special teams.
The first touchdown was the product of great field position resulting from a brilliant punt block. The third major was set up by a superbly executed fake field goal. Last was the interception-lateral romp into the end zone engineered by two members of the D's front seven.
While success requires great play from all three phases of a football team, relying on trickery is unsustainable and can mask deficiencies in fundamentals.
Earl Leggett, a defensive-line coach who inducted Howie Long into the Pro Football Hall of Fame — and who also had a tremendous impact on hall of famer Michael Strahan — used to teach all his players about the importance of having a strong fundamental arsenal of pass-rush moves.
Some guys got to the pros with finesse hand flip that was an all-or-nothing type of pass rush technique. If it worked, which it did on occasion, they could beat the opponent, clean. But if they couldn’t draw an offensive lineman to flash his hands back at them, it failed and counter moves were ineffective.
Leggett taught all his players the importance of having just two moves — a power or speed rush, and a counter, that could be relied upon against every opponent on the line — leaving fakery out of the toolbox.
Deception and creativity will always have a place in the game, but as an enhancement —a way to keep opponents honest.
But if chicanery becomes a regular part of the conversion, bet on that team watching the playoffs on TV.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears weekly in the Free Press.
Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.