Bombers blow it in Cowtown (& nine other thoughts)

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers lost to the Calgary Stampeders by a score of 39-26 in front of 27,800 fans at McMahon Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Below are my thoughts on the game.

It’s time for Hall to fall

The Bombers gave up 500 yards of offence to the Ottawa Redblacks last week. Trevor Harris completed 29 of 39 pass attempts for 361 yards and a touchdown en route to a 44-21 victory at Investors Group Field.

Blue Bomber defensive coordinator Richie Hall met with a scrum of reporters at practice this past week and, when asked to comment on the play of his defence, offered a response that was matched in its incredulity only by its tone-deafness.

“I like where we’re at.”

“I like where we’re at.”

Barf.

If Hall liked watching his unit give up 500 yards to Ottawa, I’m interested to learn how he feels about them giving up 516 yards to Calgary. Bo Levi Mitchell completed 25 of 42 pass attempts for 452 yards and three touchdowns in an effort that set two new milestones in Cowtown. It was the first 400-yard passing game of Mitchell’s career, while Kamar Jorden’s 249-yard performance broke the Stampeders’ club record for single-game receiving yardage.

It’s time for Winnipeg to relieve Richie Hall of his duties. Enough is enough.

Hall is a well-respected person in CFL circles who emanates class, humility, and kindness. This isn’t personal. This is about winning games.

Richie Hall’s defence isn’t helping the Bombers win. It hasn’t for awhile.

Mike O’Shea, Glen Young, and Jordan Younger share a combined 39 years of playing experience and fifteen years of coaching experience. The trio is surely capable of picking up the slack in Hall’s absence.

A change is needed. Let’s see if Mike O’Shea has the nerve to make it.

Nic-lulls

Matt Nichols is playing his worst football as a member of the Blue Bombers at a very inconvenient time.

The veteran pivot finished Saturday’s game with a whopping 44 pass attempts for just 258 yards, almost a third of which came after Calgary opened a three-score lead late in the fourth quarter.

Teams are keying heavily on Andrew Harris, forcing the Bombers to go elsewhere for offensive production. Nichols has yet to prove he can beat teams through the air, which is problematic — until he starts to make defences pay for overcommitting to Harris, opposing teams will simply keep doing it.

One of the things hampering Nichols is the lack of quality targets he has to throw to. Speaking of which…

Make American receivers great again

“I’m going through four and five reads and finding no one open.”

That is a quote from Matt Nichols, courtesy of CJOB 680 radio in Winnipeg. Nichols offered the comment in reference to how well Calgary’s zone defence blanketed their receivers, leaving him without a place to throw the football.

That’s an indictment of the Blue Bomber receiving corps — and it’s justified.

Winnipeg’s Canadians receivers are pretty good. Drew Wolitarsky had a career-high 90 receiving yards on eight catches, while Nic Demski continues to be effective after the catch. The Bombers also have rookies Rashaun Simonise and Daniel Petermann on the bench, both of whom are expected contribute in the not-too-distant future.

The American receivers, however, are a problem.

The Bombers have struggled to uncover international talent at the receiver position throughout Kyle Walters’ tenure. The club has tried to supplement poor scouting by dipping into free agency, but high-priced additions like Nick Moore, Kenny Stafford, and Adarius Bowman have all turned out to be busts.

Darvin Adams is a talented player — he was a West Division all-star last season — but it’s becoming increasingly clear that he’s not a true number-one target. He drops too many balls and is too slight to frequently be sent into traffic. He’s a valuable piece, but not a go-to guy.

The problem is that Winnipeg, particularly in the absence of Weston Dressler, is without a ‘go-to’ guy outside of Adams.

Ryan Lankford is one-dimensional. He can use his speed to take the top off of defences, but there’s a reason why the 26-year-old started the season on the practice roster.

Kenbrell Thompkins, meanwhile, wasn’t targeted until midway through the fourth quarter. He has 213 receiving yards in four career games, which is a decent number. To suggest that he’s worthy of being a number-two target in a quality CFL offence, however, is a big stretch.

Winnipeg should have signed Bakari Grant the day he was cut by the Riders, but the Bombers appear to be content with the group of receivers they have at the moment.

I can’t say I understand why.

Two-pronged attack

As someone who likes to stir the pot, I created a poll ahead of next week’s game in Saskatchewan asking who the Bombers should start at quarterback.

Regardless of who will start the Labour Day Classic (Nichols), the Bombers would be wise to employ a two-quarterback system in their match-up with the Riders. Chris Jones utilized a two-pivot system while Zach Collaros was injured earlier in the season and it paid off for the green and white. I think the Bombers should take a lead from Jones’ book.

If nothing else, athletic rookie Chris Streveler would help the Bomber attack against Saskatchewan’s excellent pass rush.

Just for kicks

Justin Medlock converted on all three of his field goal attempts on Saturday afternoon and continues to produce a solid net punting average. He’s quietly having a bounce-back season after a middling 2017 campaign.

Can you see me now?

Ja’Gared Davis finished Saturday afternoon’s game with three tackles, two interceptions, and a touchdown. The defensive end is flourishing in his first season as a full-time starter in Calgary and should, in my opinion, be considered one of the league’s best pass rushers. He’s that good.

Second and short

While the Bombers’ offensive performance was poor overall, the call to air it out to Ryan Lankford on second-and-short in the first quarter was drawn-up and executed perfectly. Bravo.

Forget-i Foketi

Third-year man Manase Foketi made his first start in two seasons in place of injured right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick. Foketi had a solid outing until, with two minutes remaining in the game, the 27-year-old took an illegal procedure penalty on third-and-one. Down ten points, that forced the Bombers to kick a 23-yard field goal instead of continuing their drive for a major.

The penalty wasn’t costly in the long-run — a defensive breakdown followed by a Ja’Gared Davis pick-six saw to that — but it was still an unfortunate mental mistake.

Like a fine wine

Calgary’s Brandon Smith played his 150th CFL game on Saturday afternoon just days after celebrating his 34th birthday. Smith plays boundary halfback — arguably the toughest spot in the secondary — and has quietly done so brilliantly for eleven season now. He’s on my list of the league’s most underrated players.

On to Riderville

The Bombers are now set to play the Saskatchewan Roughriders in back-to-back games as part of the annual Labour Day Classic and Banjo Bowl match-ups. Winnipeg has won six of their last eight games against the Riders — including three of their last five in the province of Saskatchewan — but the green and white are riding high following a 40-27 victory over the Calgary Stampeders.

At 5-5, the Bombers could cement their position in the West Division playoff race with back-to-back wins against their rivals to the west. Back-to-back losses, meanwhile, could move Winnipeg into the West Division’s basement.

No pressure, though.




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