Bomber Thoughts: Week Eleven, Winnipeg at Saskatchewan

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.

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The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were defeated by the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday afternoon by a final score of 37-19. Here are my thoughts:

1. The Bombers, now 3-7, got lit up on Sunday by an 0-9 team in the biggest rivalry game of the season. I almost never advocate mid-season firings, but somebody on this Blue Bomber coaching staff has to go.

2. Marcel Bellefeuille’s offence put up just 244 yards against a league-worst Saskatchewan Roughrider defence that has given up an average of 403 yards per game this season. To me, the course for this upcoming week is simple: fire Bellefeuille, promote receivers coach Markus Howell to offensive coordinator, and name Matt Nichols the starter moving forward. The Bombers won both the turnover and sack battles on Sunday — if 244 yards and eighteen points is really the best the combination of Bellefeuille and Brohm can manage, a change must be made. Now.

3. Speaking of changes that need to be made, how about those Blue Bomber special teams? Nic Demski’s return touchdown. Mike Willie’s blown punt block. Lirim Hajrullahu’s missed field goal. Ug-lay. Don’t expect the club’s cover teams to get any better if Chris Randle is out for an extended period of time — he’s the team’s best downfield tackler.

4. The Bombers have now lost four straight games by a combined score of 138-55. That’s an average margin of 21 points. Ugh.

5. As bad as Sunday’s final score looks on paper, I think you have to commend the Blue Bomber defence for performance versus Saskatchewan. Winnipeg’s defence gave up just twenty-three points to a ‘Rider offence that dominated the time of possession battle by a margin of almost sixteen minutes (37:45 to 22:15) while containing Jerome Messam to just seventy-three yards rushing — forty-seven of which came after the defence was gassed in the fourth quarter. If this Winnipeg defence was getting even average offensive support, it’d probably be considered one of the CFL’s better units.

6. Consider how far the Winnipeg Football Club has fallen since beating the ‘Riders in week one: Drew Willy put up 325 yards and three touchdowns in that game for a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3; Paris Cotton put up 108 rushing yards on thirteen carries along with fifty-nine receiving yards and a score; and the Bombers, on the strength of an outstanding offensive performance, were off to a 1-0 start to the 2015 season. Since then, the Bombers have gone 2-7. They have just one touchdown pass since Drew Willy was hurt back in week seven in Hamilton. Their best rushing performance since Paris Cotton’s week one carving of Saskatchewan’s defence came in week six when Drew Willy — yes, Drew Willy — rattled off seventy-two yards against BC. Unreal.

7. As I pointed out last week, the Bombers are in real trouble if they continue to tank moving forward. This organization has a slew of Grey Cup tickets to sell. They forfeited their first round pick in the 2016 CFL draft. Very bad things will happen if they continue to rack up losses in the coming weeks. It’s time to man up.

8. It’s not terribly fair to criticize CFL rookies like Mike Willie and Johnny Adams for taking stupid penalties when the veterans on this team get away with moronic calls every week. Dominic Picard and Lin-J Shell’s second and fourth quarter unnecessary roughness penalties were extremely costly. Someone on this team needs to show some leadership.

9. Newcomer Justin Cole now has two sacks in two regular season CFL games. For reference, Greg Peach, Bryant Turner, and Zach Anderson have combined for one on the year.

10. Sam Hurl has been better in recent weeks — with seven tackles and a sack against the ‘Riders, Hurl was one of the keys to stifling Jerome Messam and Anthony Allen — but the Bombers still need to find a way to sign free agent middle linebacker Henoc Muamba. It’ll take between $225,000 to $250,000 per season to get Muamba back in blue and gold, but, even for that money, Muamba’s worth it.

11. I really liked Chevon Walker in his two seasons with Hamilton (148 carries for 849 yards and five touchdowns), but he has been dreadful ever since. Walker was cut by Ottawa late last month after Jeremiah Johnson won the starting job with the RedBlacks, posting a 4.2 yard per carry average to Walker’s 3.7. In his debut with the Bombers, Walker consistently missed running lanes and failed to make a defender miss on any of his four carries. Colour me unimpressed.

12. Given the current state of the Bombers and ‘Riders, Sunday’s game didn’t feel much like a Labour Day Classic. Saskatchewan’s season ended three weeks ago and Winnipeg’s is hanging by a thread. Here’s hoping next year’s game holds some real weight in the standings for two franchises that deserve a better on-field product than Sunday’s game provided.

13. The Bombers need to win their next two games (versus Saskatchewan, at Montreal) if they have any hope of making the playoffs this season. Game on.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk


John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.