Bomber Thoughts: Week Three, Montreal at Winnipeg

Bomber Thoughts is a blogging series for which Blue Bomber Talk author John Hodge writes new posts immediately following every Blue Bomber game of the season.

The Blue Bombers defeated the Montreal Alouettes on Friday night by a final score of 25-23. Here are my thoughts:

1. Friday’s game was a classic example of the way in which turnovers can decide a football game. Despite being outmatched on offence and inconsistent on both defence and special teams, the Bombers were able to win the game by dominating the turnover battle 4-0. Winnipeg immediately notched touchdowns on Johnny Adams’ second quarter interception and Lin-J Shell’s blocked punt, while the offence was able to follow up Chris Randle’s first quarter interception with a field goal.

2. In what is perhaps the most bizarre statistic I’ve ever encountered, the Bombers have won just eleven games since 2013, with five of those victories coming against Montreal. I suppose sometimes teams just have another squad’s number.

3. I’ve never been a Demond Washington fan and his performance on Friday night did nothing to improve my opinion of the fourth-year Bomber. I know Mike O’Shea is a big Washington fan, but it’s time to begin looking for alternatives at short-side halfback. Washington repeatedly allowed S.J. Green to break deep zone coverage and has become a major liability in the red zone. Teams are targeting Washington repeatedly near the end zone, knowing they are likely to draw a pass interference penalty if they fail to record a completion.

4. It was great to see Moe Leggett and Chris Randle recapture their 2014 form tonight. Leggett looked sluggish coming back from injury last week and Randle has struggled mightily since converting to SAM linebacker this off-season. The Bombers rely on Leggett and Randle for a tremendous amount of leadership on the defensive side of the ball (as evidenced by their poor play in the club’s utter collapse versus Hamilton last Thursday), and their strong performances really bolstered the defence as a unit versus the Alouettes.

5. Lirim Hajrullahu should kick all of his converts from the 51-yard line.

6. I loved Doug Brown’s take on Montreal’s rookie quarterback Rakeem Cato prior to kick-off: “It would be a mistake to treat Rakeem Cato like anything other than a rookie pivot tonight,” Brown tweeted, “never fear a freshman QB.”

7. I’ve seen enough from Sam Hurl. Considering the Bombers have started eight nationals so far this season, they can afford to replace the former ‘Rider with an American. It’s time to bring in some serious competition — regardless of passport the player happens to have.

8. Come to think of it, the answer to Sam Hurl’s struggles might already be sitting on the bench: second-year Bomber Jesse Briggs had three special teams tackles on Friday night and played well at middle linebacker in the preseason. As a bonus, Briggs is a national.

8. Michel-Pierre Pontbriand has been great this year. He appears to have lost a few pounds, something that’s really added to his play-making abilities as a receiver. Despite the weight loss, he’s still a formidable blocker.

9. Zach Anderson had his lunch eaten all night by Montreal left guard Kristian Matte. Considering how ineffective Anderson’s been so far this season, it’s time to see what Deantre Harlan and Nate Collins can do at nose tackle. When a nose is unable to draw multiple blockers, it limits the effectiveness of his accompanying three-technique defensive tackle. I believe this is the primary reason why Bryant Turner has been invisible through three games this season.

10. A lot of fans have been complaining about the play of Jamaal Westerman, something that, to me, is ludicrous. Westerman has consistently been the Bombers’ best pass rusher and, I’m sad to say, is currently the only Bomber defensive lineman to record a sack in 2015. Re-watch Adams’ pick-six — without Westerman’s pressure, Cato doesn’t throw that pass.

11. Some perspective: Bear Woods’ replacement, Kyler Elsworth, had eleven tackles from his middle linebacker spot on Friday night. Sam Hurl has seven tackles all season.

12. I’m tired of writing this, but I’ll keep reiterating this point until I see some change: the Bomber offence needs to keep Paris Cotton involved even when the run game isn’t working. Screen passes, dig routes, swing patterns, outlet plays — the possibilities are endless. Cotton is arguably the club’s best offensive weapon; the Bombers need to use him for more than just ten to fifteen carries per game. Anyone who’s seen the way in which BC and Toronto consistently incorporate Andrew Harris and Brandon Whitaker, respectively, in this manner knows exactly what I’m talking about.

13. The CFL season is a marathon — not every game can be a masterpiece. Good for the Bombers for bouncing back from last week’s disaster with a win in front of their hometown crowd at Investors Group Field. The Bombers are now heading off to Alberta for back-to-back dates with Calgary and Edmonton, two games that are sure to be tough contests. Cheers to a solid 2-1 start.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk


John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.