Blue Bombers find their big-play offence
By KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency
|Bombers QB Joey Elliot looks to complete a pass Monday afternoon against the Montreal Alouettes. (QMI Agency)
It’s official, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers still have a pulse.
After turning in a gutsy and passionate effort against one of the Beasts of the East, Blue Bombers running back Chad Simpson came up with a somewhat morbid, yet deft death-bed analogy regarding the state his team finds itself in following Monday’s 27-22 triumph over the Montreal Alouettes before 23,021 patrons at Percival Molson Stadium.
“We’re vegetables, but we’re not dead, basically,” said Simpson, who rushed the ball 13 times for 62 yards. “Don’t pull the plug on us just yet. We’re about to wake up out of that coma.
“There’s a way. We’re not fully out of it.”
It’s true that the victory keeps the Grim Reaper at bay for at least another week or two, but the Blue Bombers remain close to flatlining.
But that’s a concern for another day.
This win allows the Blue Bombers to improve to 4-10 on the 2012 CFL season and remain in the playoff discussion — two games behind the Edmonton Eskimos for the final berth with four weeks to play.
The Blue Bombers face the Calgary Stampeders at Canad Inns Stadium next Saturday and if they can find a way to post consecutive victories against upper-echelon competition, you can be sure that more folks will be trying to find a seat on the bandwagon.
For now, it’s probably best to focus on the present and that present currently includes hope, a natural emotion after creating five turnovers (three fumble recoveries to go along with picks by Johnny Sears and Brandon Stewart that snuffed out potential scoring drives) and coming up with a sound offensive performance.
There’s no denying this performance was huge for the collective psyche of the Blue Bombers, especially for embattled quarterback Joey Elliott.
After struggling to find the end zone in recent weeks, Elliott came through big-time, protecting the ball while eclipsing 300 yards passing and producing three majors through the air.
“We didn’t have near as many mental mistakes as we’ve had in the past,” said Elliott, whose scoring strikes included Rory Kohlert’s first CFL touchdown in the fourth quarter. “That’s what our offence is capable of when we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot.”
The first of those scores provided an immediate confidence boost, as Elliott felt the rush from Als John Bowman coming, but hung in the pocket long enough for Terrence Edwards to blow past Chip Cox for a 50-yard touchdown — marking the first time the Blue Bombers put the ball in the end zone in the quarter this season.
“It was important,” said Edwards. “We went out with some fire, some confidence.”
The Blue Bombers clearly embraced the mantra that interim head coach Tim Burke was preaching throughout the week, about remembering why they began playing football in the first place.
“When I started, I had a great time playing football,” said Blue Bombers defensive back Jonathan Hefney, who came up with a key fumble recover in the second quarter — after the play on the field was overturned by a successful challenge from Burke. “That’s what we did. The message was sent.”
This looked nothing like a team that had gone out of its way to find ways to lose, though they did have a couple turnovers of their own that came on special teams (one when Demond Washington fumbled on a kickoff return and another when usually-reliable Chris Cvetkovic fired a high and wide snap that holder Mike Renaud couldn’t handle).
Discipline threatened to be an issue again, but the Blue Bombers regrouped and pulled together, which was even more impressive when you consider they lost defensive end Alex Hall, defensive tackle Bryant Turner and receivers Kito Poblah and Cory Watson to injury at various points of the contest.
You can be sure that Burke will cherish this one — knocking off his former team, on the road, to help him improve to 2-4 since taking over from Paul LaPolice.
When it was suggested by a reporter that his team’s showing might provide some evidence that he should be given the job full-time, Burke made it clear he’s not satisfied.
“I hope there are more tapes to give them,” said Burke. “For us to come out here and beat them was really a shot in the arm for us. Guys played without having a lot of tension. They just played.
“I think it showed we’re a lot better team than a lot of people give us credit for. If we just have the right attitude and the right work ethic and focus, we can do a lot of good things. It’s not too late to finish up the season and go out with some wins.”
It was the Bombers first road win in seven tries this season and first win away from Canad Inns Stadium since Oct. 7, 2011, in Hamilton.
The harsh reality is that even four more wins might not be enough to get the Blue Bombers into the post-season, but that’s the goal.
“We’re never going to give up, that’s the beauty of it,” said Blue Bombers receiver Chris Matthews, who had a monster game with six catches for 143 yards and his sixth touchdown of the campaign. “And I love these guys for that. A lot of teams would have packed up and went home by now, counting down the days. I’m glad I’m with a team that’s going to keep on fighting.”