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This article was published 13/8/2009 (4121 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Bombers defensive co-ordinator Mark Nelson shows a play for the team to work on at practice Thursday in preparation to face Montreal's Anthony Calvillo on Saturday.


Bombers defensive co-ordinator Mark Nelson shows a play for the team to work on at practice Thursday in preparation to face Montreal's Anthony Calvillo on Saturday.

For the record, there are some in the Canadian Football League who insist there are ways to stop Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo from shredding a defence with the precision of a diamond cutter.

And no, they don't involve the use of an unmarked van, a handful of guys in balaclavas, a chloroform-soaked gag and possible kidnapping charges.

Anthony Calvillo


Anthony Calvillo

Calvillo, the soon-to-be-37-year-old pivot, has been the focus of hours of film work in the camp of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this week as they prepare for Saturday's home date against the reigning East-Division champs.

And little wonder.

You see, not only does the veteran QB lead the country in completion percentage (a gaudy 76.6), passing yardage (1,899) and efficiency rating (109.9), he is an astonishing 17-7 with 48 touchdowns in games against the Bombers since 1999. In other words, a good chunk of his hall-of-fame highlights have come against the Blue and Gold.

But, in case you haven't noticed while the offence has been analyzed to death, the Bomber defence has emerged as a force this year. They lead the league in interceptions with 14 and love to get up in a receiver's grille and make his life miserable. And, without giving away any state secrets, they also figure they have a blueprint for limiting -- not shutting down -- their old nemesis.

Here, then, are three keys to stopping Calvillo:



It's a cliché, to be sure, but the Bombers front seven -- and in particular the defensive line -- must push the pocket into Calvillo and get their hands up in his passing lanes. It's not just about the sacks, particularly when he takes three steps back and fires, but about the pressure. Winnipeg has 24 sacks against Calvillo in its last 13 games.

"I've had luck in previous years getting sacks on him," said defensive end Gavin Walls. "The biggest thing is you can't get frustrated early. We have to get our hands up, take away the runs and their success on first downs. If you take Avon Cobourne out of the game and force them into second and long... if we can do all that, we have a good chance to win the ball game."



There likely isn't a defensive formation Calvillo hasn't seen in his 16 years in the CFL. That said, if teams are to have any success against him it has to come from attempting to disguise their defences or by mixing man with zone coverages on the same play.

"His biggest asset is that pre-snap he knows where he's going with the football," said Bomber head coach Mike Kelly. "He's that wily vet... he looks and sees the defensive alignment and he's got it in his head right now where he's going with the ball. And so we're going to have to do some things to disguise that. Then, because he gets rid of the ball so quickly we're going to have to make sure that when we do disguise things we get ourselves in position to come off the edge quickly and get him out of his rhythm."



Some juicy numbers to consider: The Alouettes average a league-best 7.8 yards on first down and, as a result, Montreal's second-down conversion rate is also a league best, at 47.1 per cent. In other words, Calvillo & Co. often find themselves in second and two and three yards and by converting those chances they stay on the field, keep cranking out first downs (their 146 total first downs is 19 better than second-place Calgary) and grind defences into a pulp.

"You can't let him get into a rhythm and you've got to find a rhythm defensively to stop them on first down," said cornerback Jovon Johnson. "That's always the key, stopping Montreal on first down because if they're productive on first down it makes their second-down calls easier.

"From watching him and playing against him I already know what their philosophy is: They do a real good job of taking what the defence gives them and not try to force things. That's why they're so successful."

"Obviously, he's going to make some plays," added halfback Lenny Walls. "What we want to do is force him to make mistakes and the throws he doesn't want to. We'll disguise some coverages, but we've got to make the big play when we've got the opportunity and when he dumps it off short we've got to be great tacklers.

"But, man, Calvillo is good at what he does."