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This article was published 14/8/2017 (1621 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A 39-12 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday was considered a breakout game for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defence.
After weeks of being subjected to harsh criticism by fans, the Bombers’ defensive dozen put forth their best effort of the 2017 season, limiting the Tiger-Cats to just two touchdowns and no points in the first and fourth quarters.
Their five quarterback sacks against Hamilton’s Zach Collaros, who finished with just 216 yards passing, were a season-high. The defence also recorded three turnovers — one interception and two fumbles — with all three resulting in touchdown drives for the offence.
But as good as they were, defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall wasn’t about to forget the past when asked to give an up-to-date ranking of his group.
"Right now, probably around a five or a six (out of 10)," Hall said. "We’re about average, a bit above average. Our biggest thing, something I’ve mentioned the last number of weeks, is consistency. The other night we played consistently for 60 minutes; there weren’t those peaks and valleys that we have shown throughout the course of the season.
"In that regard, we’re average," he concluded. "We’ve played up to seven or eight but we’ve also played at a two or three."
It wasn’t the first time this season Hall has chosen to be rash in his assessment of the defence.
Ahead of the game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Week 7, Hall, unprovoked, publicly ridiculed his unit’s execution at practice.
In the case against Ottawa, it appeared that Hall, who is often subdued when speaking to media, wanted to create a spark from his players as they prepared to take on a prolific Ottawa offence led by quarterback Trevor Harris.
That seems to be the case once again this week, with Hall likely not wanting his group to get too high on themselves from the Hamilton game, especially with Mike Reilly and the 7-0 Edmonton Eskimos next on the schedule on Thursday at Investors Group Field.
Hall downplayed any ulterior motives that might present itself with the Eskimos in town, adding, "you have to have that unconditional mindset, whether a team is 7-0 or 0-6… you got to play to your level, you got to play consistently and you got to be disciplined."
Reilly, 32, has thrown for 2,329 yards through seven games, the third most among CFL quarterbacks. He also has 13 touchdown passes compared to four interceptions and a CFL-best QB rating among starting quarterbacks (112.3).
Nichols confident against Esks
The Bombers’ defensive players won’t be the only ones with their hands full this week.
While Edmonton does average the most net offence per game, averaging 407 yards, the Eskimos defence also accounts for the fewest against (308).
"They’re as good up front as we’re going to face," said Bombers offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice.
"They get off the ball and they don’t give up a lot of plays in the back end. So we have to space the field correctly and break tackles."
The Bombers were able to execute a mixed attack against Hamilton. While quarterback Matt Nichols threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns, the Bombers were also able to record a season-high 141 yards rushing.
Though Nichols recognized the Eskimos are among the best in the league at attacking the line of scrimmage, he believes the men in front of him are as good as any when it comes to minimizing the chaos around him.
"We feel like we have the best offensive line in the league and they’re arguably the best defensive line in the league, so it’s going to be a battle up front," Nichols said. "But we have all the faith in the world in our guys, though."
He added: "We talk about it every week that we feel we have answers for everything and the (coaches) do a good job of getting us ready," Nichols said.
"Especially in-game changes… everyone throws in wrinkles, so a lot of time you got to adjust things on the fly."
Bombers safety Taylor Loffler left midway through practice but O’Shea downplayed it, calling it a minor maintenance issue.
Brandon Alexander, who has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury, returned to practice. The defensive back/linebacker remains on the one-game injured list but hasn’t been ruled out against Edmonton.
Both receiver Weston Dressler and defensive end Tristan Okpalaugo remain on the six-game injured list and are doubtful to play this week.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @jeffkhamilton
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.