Bomber Thoughts: Week Ten, Calgary 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 Winnipeg Blue Bombers were defeated by the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday night by a final score of 36-8. Here are my thoughts:

1. I’m almost at a loss for words to describe the performance of the Blue Bomber offence tonight. Not including sack and penalty yardage, the Bombers recorded just 175 total offensive yards on Saturday night, the lowest offensive output for a CFL team in, what? One year? Five years? Ten years? Somebody with access to such statistics needs to looks that up. 175 total yards is a special kind of incompetent. Like, deplorable. Truly dreadful. Sophomore pivot Robert Marve looked uncomfortable in the pocket, moving sluggishly through his reads and holding onto the ball for too long against an unusually blitz-happy Stampeder defence. Offensive coordinator Marcel Bellefeuille failed incorporate any movement of the pocket in his game plan — a bizarre decision considering Marve’s mobility — and, as usual, did little to beat the blitz in the form of screen passes, draws, shovel passes, counters, reverses, and sweeps. Bellefeuille’s incompetence is amplified by the fact that he and his assistants had two weeks to prepare for tonight’s game. By all accounts, Marcel Bellefeuille is a nice person and a good man — he’s just not an effective CFL offensive coordinator. At season’s end, the Bombers need to move on.

2. The Bombers have now lost four games this season by a margin of more than twenty-five points: 52-26 week two versus Hamilton; 32-3 week five at Edmonton; 38-8 week seven at Hamilton; and 38-6 tonight versus Calgary. Only three other CFL games this season have been as lopsided: Ottawa’s week three 46-17 loss at Edmonton; BC’s week eight 52-22 loss at Hamilton; and Edmonton’s 49-20 loss versus Hamilton. That’s embarrassing.

3. Calgary’s defensive coordinator Rich Stubler put together an outstanding game plan to counter the skills and abilities of Robert Marve. Considering Stubler cut his teeth planning against the likes of Matt Dunigan, Doug Flutie, Damon Allen, and Jeff Garcia, it’s not as though Marve’s athleticism is something he hasn’t seen before.

4. Despite the lopsided score, I thought the Bomber defence put together a very commendable effort against a vaunted Stampeder attack. Jamaal Westerman, a shoe-in to be named Winnipeg’s Most Outstanding Canadian at season’s end, notched his league-leading seventh sack and Matt Bucknor recorded his first career interception. People will complain about Eric Rogers’ 156 receiving yards but, as the league’s best receiver, Rogers is simply impossible to contain right now. He’s good. Like, Most Outstanding Player good. It also would have benefited the Bomber defence to not be on the field for virtually the entire second half, a byproduct of the Bombers’ offensive ineptitude.

5. The Bombers won the special teams battle for the first time in a long time tonight. Lirim Hajrullahu was two-for-two on his field goal attempts and out-booted Calgary’s perennial all-star punter Rob Maver by an average of six yards (Hajrullahu, 47.6; Maver, 41.8). Troy Stoudermire outproduced Tim Brown in the return game in what I would call his first good game of the season and, on what should have been a game-changing play, Derek Jones blocked a punt that resulted in three of the Bombers’ eight points. Considering I called on the Bombers to fire special teams coordinator Pat Tracey two weeks ago, color me impressed.

6. As much as five sacks allowed looks terrible on paper, I thought the Bomber offensive line played fairly well against a solid Stampeder pass rush. Matthias Goossen made his first career start at centre and did a nice job of directing traffic in various protection schemes. Every blitz package was picked up properly and, while the Stampeders don’t run the same complex blitzes as Hamilton or Edmonton, that’s more than I can say about the play of Dominic Picard this season. It’s important to recognize that four of Calgary’s sacks came mostly as a result of excellent downfield coverage. Bizarrely, the one sack that came as a result of a defender cleanly beating a Blue Bomber blocker was allowed by Stanley Bryant, the club’s high-priced left tackle.

7. Speaking of the Blue Bomber offensive line, I thought Patrick Neufeld was adequate at right tackle, making him an upgrade over Jace Daniels. Considering Neufeld’s passport, right tackle should be his permanent home for the rest of the season.

8. The Bombers used the addition of Neufeld at right tackle to start an extra American receiver, swapping out underachieving slotback Julian Feoli-Gudino for rookie receiver/returner Justin Veltung. As much as this move didn’t pay off for Saturday night’s game, I’d like to see the Bombers continue to start four Americans in the receiving corps for the forseeable future.

9. Brian Brohm might be the worst Blue Bomber quarterback I’ve ever seen. I’m not trying to be mean or hyperbolize in saying that. It’s just true. After completing just one of five passes for seven yards in relief of Robert Marve, Brohm’s CFL career passer rating now sits at 54.1. For perspective, here are how the ratings of some former Bomber pivots compare: Troy Kopp, 57.4; Troy Rubley, 61.9; Joey Elliott, 69.1; Alex Brink, 70.4; Max Hall 75.1.

10. Veteran defensive tackle Bryant Turner notched his first sack of 2015 in tonight’s contest, marking the first time he’s made a noticeable impact on a game this season. If asked to make a list of Bomber veterans not pulling their weight this season, I’d consider put Turner at the top of the list.

11. Getting back to the Bomber rushing attack, it was a rough game for Cam Marshall and newcomer Tyler Thomas who combined for just thirty-five yards on twelve carries. As much as the Bombers need to improve their run blocking, when was the last time we saw either Bomber running back make somebody miss? Shakir Bell, the Eskimos’ rookie running back, is averaging 5.6 yards per carry behind a worse offensive line in Edmonton.

12. I can’t help but think ahead to the 2016 CFL draft with every loss the Bombers rack up this season. The club forfeited next year’s first round pick with the selection of Dartmouth’s Garrett Waggoner in the supplemental draft this past May, something that will cost the club dearly if the blue and gold end up finishing in the bottom of the league’s standings this season.

13. The 2015 Blue Bomber season is quickly being flushed down the drain. With Drew Willy likely not back for another six weeks, Robert Marve will have to find a way to win at least two of the club’s next three games (at Saskatchewan, versus Saskatchewan, at Montreal) if this club has any hope of making the playoffs.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk


John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.