Bomber Thoughts: Week Seven, Winnipeg at Hamilton

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.

CFL Football

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were defeated by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday night by a final score of 38-8. Here are my thoughts:

1. Very rarely am I unable to watch or attend Blue Bomber games. I avoid making social arrangements during blue and gold contests and my career virtually never conflicts with football — with the exception of an annual commitment I have the second week of August. As such, I was unable to watch the final three quarters of Sunday’s game live. I’ve since watched the whole game via the magic of digitally recorded television and seen plenty of fan reaction on twitter. As such, my take on the game is a little late, though, considering the time that’s passed, it should come from a less emotionally-charged place than the vitriol I’ve seen pasted over social media these past few hours. Here it goes.

2. Though the Bombers deserve a lot of criticism — don’t worry, I’m getting there in a moment — I feel like I need to start off by praising Richie Hall’s defence. Not counting Emmanuel Davis’ pick-sixes, the Bomber defence gave up just twenty-four points to a solid Hamilton offence, fourteen of which came off drives that started inside the Bombers’ thirty-yard line. Bruce Johnson and Johnny Adams both recorded interceptions (Adams now leads the CFL in this category; as I’ve been saying all season, this guy is really good), while Sam Hurl, Jamaal Westerman, Khalil Bass, and Demond Washington combined for five sacks. The truth is, as much as Sunday night’s final score of 38-8 looks terrible, the Bomber defence came to play.

3. As far as the game’s disastrous start is concerned, this one is on the Bomber special teams units. Again. Arnaud Gascon-Nadon’s blocked punt came on a play that saw long snapper Chad Rempel whiff on a block attempt that looked as though he was anticipating help from Garrett Waggoner, who was tied up with a Ti-Cat at the time, or upback Jesse Briggs, who failed to throw a block on the play. The Bombers’ second major special teams gaffe came just moments later on a play that saw the Bomber return unit simply fail to recover a live football. There’s no way to provide any in-depth analysis of a play like that — just pick up the freakin’ ball, boys.

4. As bad as the Bombers’ special teams were on Sunday night, Marcel Bellefeuille’s protection schemes were worse. The Bombers gave up seven sacks to a Ti-Cat defensive unit that dialed up blitz after blitz knowing they’d get to Drew Willy more often than not. While plenty of players deserve a share of the blame — the offensive line, running backs, slotbacks, and, yes, Willy himself — Bellefeuille is ultimately at fault. Bellefeuille has now had four opportunities to prepare for Orlondo Steinauer’s blitz-happy Ti-Cat defence since the start of the 2014 season and each outing has gone increasingly poorly. The worst of it is that Bellefeuille’s inability to combat Hamilton’s blitz appears to have cost the Bombers the health of starting quarterback Drew Willy for the foreseeable future. Come season’s end, that’s a fireable offence in my book.

5. Assuming Paris Cotton’s terrible-looking wrist injury is season-ending, that’s a tough break for a talented young player. Derek Taylor of TSN, a must-follow for CFL fans, tweeted prior to the game that Cotton has attained 46% of his rushing yardage after contact (6th best in the CFL) and has recorded 2.7 touches per missed tackle (4th). Fortunately for Winnipeg, Cameron Marshall’s percentage is 62% (2nd) and touches are at 2.1 (2nd).

6. A quick note on Cotton’s character: last game against BC, Lion cornerback T.J. Lee was injured on Justin Veltung’s second quarter touchdown reception. Amidst the celebration that followed, only one player — Bomber or Lion — noticed Lee was down and called for the trainers: Paris Cotton.

7. Brian Brohm getting a grand total of five snaps before being pulled in favor of Robert Marve is just the latest in a litany of bizarre coaching decisions from Mike O’Shea. What was it exactly that O’Shea was hoping to see from Brohm on those five plays? Did he think another week of practice was going to drastically improve Brohm’s game? And if so, was five plays really long enough to make that determination? I’m not someone who believes in Brian Brohm — if I were in charge of the Bomber roster Brohm would’ve been a free agent weeks ago — I just can’t see the logic in giving Brohm the ball at all if his leash was going to be that short. On the plus side, this likely means Robert Marve is now officially the back-up quarterback of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

8. Khalil Bass could easily be considered one of the CFL’s best weak-side linebackers by the end of the season. Out of football the past two years, Bass has recorded thirty-five tackles in his seven games with the Bombers to go along with three sacks and two fumble recoveries. His diversity set of skills as a run stopper, pass rusher, and coverage specialist remind me of Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence.

9. I’m not sure what Troy Stoudermire has done this season to warrant his roster spot moving forward. Stoudermire’s done little in the return game and his much-anticipated debut on offence was decidedly underwhelming (two receptions for seven yards). The Bombers signed Stoudermire through 2017 this past off-season in a deal that likely included at least a modest signing bonus. As much as eating cap space is undesirable, it might be time to cut the return specialist loose.

10. Jamaal Westerman just keeps getting better. Westerman’s two sacks against the Ti-Cats have him up to five on the year, good for a tie of second place on the CFL sack list alongside Marcus Howard, Alex Hall, and John Bowman. That’s good company to be in.

11. There were a few folks out of Hamilton who took to twitter to rib former Ti-Cat Matt Bucknor for giving up a fifty-eight yard touchdown to Terrence Toliver in the second quarter. The truth is Toliver, at 6’5 with elite speed, is virtually impossible to cover on a fly route without safety help — which Bucknor didn’t get. Bucknor remains steady on the corner with the blue and gold and one of the CFL’s best defensive backs when it comes to making tackles in the open field. In my opinion, the criticism was fairly unwarranted.

12. As many of you already know, my co-host Tim Hodge and I launched the Blue Bomber Talk podcast this past week. Thanks to those of you who offered kind words about episode one. Look for episode two of the podcast to drop this upcoming Tuesday. Our guest will be Blue Bomber legend Doug Brown.

13. The bottom line is this: the Bombers have gotten throttled three times this season in just seven games. That’s unacceptable. And while a 3-4 record in a parity-ridden season is hardly something to panic over, the status of Drew Willy’s knee is. Without Willy, this team’s going nowhere fast.

14. My grandmother is currently in the hospital and she reads all my posts here on 3DownNation. I thought I’d close my post today wishing her a speedy recovery and welcoming you, my readers, to do the same in the comment section below if you’re so inclined.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk

Email: [email protected]

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.