Defence never gave up

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:10 AM ET

No Brown. No Rust. A revolving secondary. Inconsistent linebacking. Sloppy tackling. Questionable coaching adjustments.

These were all listed as excuses for Winnipeg's all-too-fragile defence as the Blue Bombers suffered through a three-game losing streak that all but ended their playoff hopes.

But then came the second half of Friday's CFL game in Ottawa. That denounced dozen actually pitched a shutout as Winnipeg ravaged the Renegades 37-21.

"I knew we could do it all along," rookie defensive end Gavin Walls said in the jubilant locker-room after the match. "We believe in ourselves. The defence came out and played our hearts out and the offence played their hearts out, and that's what you get when you hit all cylinders. You get a W."

Of course, when you get two defensive touchdowns, you should win. And Walls scored one on a 10-yard interception return and the other on a 79-yard fumble return.

"I give it all to the guys on the front line," Walls said. "We kept working hard all night. Nobody gave up. We kept after (Ottawa quarterback Kerry) Joseph all night and it just happened that I came out making a couple more plays. Any one of the other guys could have made those same plays."

The Renegades had actually run the Bomber defence ragged in the first half as Ottawa took a 21-19 half-time lead.

"Ottawa got us in a hole a little bit early and we battled back," said Bomber head coach Jim Daley. "We did a great job at halftime in terms of a few little adjustments and then, the guys just played hard. It was a physical game and they just wouldn't quit."

Bomber coaches have often been criticized for not making the proper half-time adjustments while their opposition did.

"We had seen the three-back formation, which was hurting us," Daley explained. "For some reason, we just were not able to stop them. But all we did in the second half was change one alignment of one player, then we played some more zone because when they play with three backs, they spread you out with wide receivers and they force you into man-to-man."

Winnipeg middle linebacker Ryland Wickman blamed himself for two of the longer gains in the opening half.

"The defence started off a little shaky in the beginning," Wickman readily admitted. "We let them run around a little bit but the first first two runs, I'll take responsibility for. Other than that, we shut them out the second half on defence and the offence did enough to win the game. And we got two scores, too, so it was a big day for us.

"When we came into the locker-room, we knew we gave up some long runs and we missed some tackles on Kerry Joseph, too. We knew it was going to be a tough, close-fought game, especially with the weather conditions (rain), so we came in here, made a couple of adjustments, then went out there and played well. I'm proud of all the guys on this team and hopefully we can continue to do it."

Mind you, few would be praising the defence today had Ottawa wide receiver Yo Murphy not dropped what would have been a sure touchdown catch after getting open over the middle early in the fourth quarter.

"We showed we had some heart and we didn't give up," Wickman said. "But we've got to build on it."


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