Bomber Thoughts: Week Fourteen, 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.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers v Calgary Stampeders

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were defeated by the Calgary Stampeders on Friday night by a final score of 25-23. Here are my thoughts:

1. All anyone has been talking about since the final gun sounded on Friday night’s game is the illegal formation penalty called on the Bombers with 50 seconds remaining. There is a tremendous amount of confusion regarding the controversial call that prevented what would have been a Winnipeg first down at Calgary’s 36 yard line and, while I’d love to produce a clear cut answer as to what transpired on the play, there are simply too many unknowns to fairly analyze what happened. Video evidence reveals Winnipeg’s boundary wide receiver Darvin Adams checking in with the official prior to the play regarding his positioning along the line of scrimmage. This check-in was followed by a slight adjustment in Adams’ footing that may have been enough to draw the flag. At the same time, it’s possible Kris Bastien, Winnipeg’s field-side wide receiver, drew the flag by lining up incorrectly at the opposite side of the field. To further complicate matters, the official who threw the flag failed to do so until conversing with the game’s head official Tom Vallesi. Was it possible Vallesi urged the official to throw the flag? And if so, why? As reported by Kirk Penton of the Winnipeg Sun, the CFL will be investigating tonight’s controversial penalty. Though I suppose it’s possible that such an investigation will yield a clear and satisfactory result, I wouldn’t hold out much hope.

2. Lost in Friday night’s penalty controversy is the fact that the Bombers made a ton of mistakes against the CFL’s best team in a game they didn’t deserve to win. Winnipeg gave up five sacks against the Stampeders, allowed Bo Levi Mitchell to complete 77 percent of his passes for 333 yards, posted just 23:36 in time of possession, took thirteen penalties, and recorded just twelve net yards in the third quarter. No performance will ever be mistake-free, but you can’t commit as many errors as the Bombers did on Friday night and expect to win.

3. I’ll finish my thoughts on the illegal formation call by saying this: accusing Tom Vallesi’s officiating crew of incompetence is fair; accusing them of corruption is not. There are no corrupt officials in the CFL. Despite popular opinion, no officiating crews “have it in” for any particular team. How do I know? Well, for one, the CFL doesn’t have any officiating crews consistent or competent enough to get away with collusion or bribery. Secondly, to quote a non-local media source I texted following the conclusion of Friday’s game, “if [the officials] were corrupt, Calgary gets the call against them. The league wants Winnipeg winning with all these Grey Cup tickets still for sale.” So that’s that.

4. Cap tip to TSN’s Derek Taylor who was all over the Adams penalty and the blown Rogers reception tonight. Derek’s a must-follow for all CFL fans — check out his twitter account here.

5. Speaking of the blown Rogers reception, Mike O’Shea said after the game that they didn’t have access to the replay in time to throw the challenge flag. That’s a shame, as Rogers’ 47-yarder set up the field goal that ultimately decided Friday night’s contest.

6. It was a rough night for first-year Bomber Kris Bastien. Bastien, who got the start at Rory Kohlert’s normal z-option receiver spot (Kohlert was moved to slotback tonight to replace the injured Julian Feoli-Gudino), recorded one reception for thirteen yards and a late fourth quarter drop. To make matters worse, Bastien spent almost the entire second half working against second-year defensive back Adam Thibault, a guy who couldn’t crack Laval’s starting line-up in his senior year with the Rouge et Or in 2013. If you can’t get open against a guy like Thibault, I don’t know who you’re going to get open against in the CFL.

7. Speaking of Thibault, most offensive coordinators would have gone straight after such a raw cover guy getting his first meaningful reps at the pro level. Bellefeuille never tested him.

8. For the second time in three games, Matt Nichols had a very solid outing for the blue and gold. Finishing 18 of 28 for 234 yards and two touchdowns, Nichols did everything you could possibly expect of a back-up quarterback. Kyle Walters should start the contract extension talks now.

9. Troy Stoudermire deserves a nod for playing his first solid game of the season. Stoudermire caught an interception on a bobbled pass intended for Eric Rogers in the first quarter and set up Winnipeg’s final touchdown of the game on a 41-yard punt return to Calgary 16 yard line. It’s been a rough season for Stoudermire, but Friday night’s effort was a good one.

10. Moe Leggett was exposed tonight by Calgary slotback Marquay McDaniel. Leggett is an upgrade over Chris Randle at SAM linebacker when it comes to run support, but, as a career safety, Leggett simply doesn’t have the cover skills needed to shut down opposing slotbacks. Look for teams to try to isolate their top targets against Leggett in future weeks.

11. Congratulations to Lemar Durant on notching his first career CFL touchdown. I have a feeling this wasn’t the first time Durant will make the Bombers regret not drafting him.

12. I regularly compliment Michel-Pierre Pontbriand in my blog and I’m going to do so again tonight. Pontbriand consistently takes care of his blocking responsibilities and has shown he can be an effective ball carrier and receiver when called upon. He’s one of those players who will go under-appreciated until he retires, at which point people around the league will recognize just how valuable he was on offence and special teams.

13. I stopped in at the Bomber Store at halftime tonight to pick-up a copy of Daniel Perron’s new book, Dancing Gabe: One Step at a Time. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Winnipeg’s biggest sports fan, Gabe Langlois — better known as Dancing Gabe — is a fixture at all Winnipeg sporting events. Gabe, always decked out in a personalized jersey, riles up fan support through his cheers, hoots, hollars, high-fives, and, of course, his dance moves. As a kid growing up in the ’90s, the sports landscape in Winnipeg was bleak — the Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996 and the Bombers, following three Grey Cup victories between 1984 and 1990, became one of the CFL’s perennial bottom feeders. Outside of the small handful of great players I had the privilege of watching growing up — Milt Stegall, Doug Brown, and Khari Jones come to mind — there was only one guy you could count on to show up and give his all every game: Dancing Gabe. You can buy a copy of the new book here.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk

Email: [email protected]

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.