Defence dreadful

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:08 AM ET

There's a tattoo on Stanford Samuels' right arm, depicting a pair of clasped hands and the words, "Product of Prayer."

It's a fitting slogan, given Samuels is a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bomber secondary.

Because after seeing this group in action again yesterday, you're left wondering if divine intervention isn't the only thing that can save it.

Country-rock rebel Steve Earle once wrote about a gun-slinging, horse-stealing dude named Tom Ames, who tries prayer as a last resort: "I ain't looking for a miracle, Lord, just a little bit of luck'll do," the line goes.

For Bomber fans, a little bit of improvement would do.

Instead, the Bomber defence coughs up a season-high 484 passing yards to 42-year-old Damon Allen, and the Toronto Argonauts pull out a 35-32 squeaker, hanging loss No. 11 of the season on the home team.

Just when you think things can't get worse, they do. The Winnipeg D, ranked last in more than a dozen of the CFL's statistical categories going in, actually sunk deeper into its hole yesterday by giving up more than 500 yards total offence for the fifth time.

"It's not as bad as the numbers would say," Samuels insisted. "I know one thing: this defence has weathered a lot this year."

Yeah, so has the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, and look at it.

Yesterday's game should have been headed for overtime, after the Bombers rallied from a 10-point deficit in the last five minutes to tie it, 32-32, with 70 seconds to go.

With a stiff south wind in their faces and running back John Avery on the shelf, there's no way the Argos were going to move the ball, right?

But this is the Winnipeg defence, remember -- the one that's been giving up real estate at an unheard of rate.

So what does Allen do? He rears back, takes his time, and throws a bomb to old friend Arland Bruce III, who somehow got behind Samuels on the play. Two plays later, Noel Prefontaine kicks the winning field goal.

Talk about going from a hero to a goat: it was Samuels who, just a few plays earlier, had forced the fumble that led to the tying field goal.

"That's the life of a DB," Samuels said.

Especially one in blue and gold.

That's five times the Bombers have given up 400 or more passing yards in a game this season.

"I don't know if we've stopped anybody all year," cornerback William Fields said, agreeing the fearful fivesome deserves all the criticism it gets.

How do you explain a team with the CFL's leading rusher (Charles Roberts had another 176 yards yesterday), one of its top passers (Kevin Glenn has 27 touchdown passes on the season) and receiver Milt Stegall can be 5-11 and out of the playoffs?

With a defence that, statistically, is worse than any the CFL has seen in more than 20 years, that's how.

"You talk about 20," cornerback Omar Evans began. "I've had 20 different halfbacks play with me this year."

Actually, it only seems that way.

No less than 13 different DBs have suited up for the Bombers this year. Word is the meeting room for the secondary has been fitted with a revolving door.

"Once we get some continuity ... then maybe we'll stop somebody," Fields said.

The man in charge of it all, head coach Jim Daley, insists the current growing pains will pay off down the road, pointing out eight of the nine DBs dressed yesterday are in their first years as a Bomber.

That's nearly two fistfuls of changes in a pretty critical area.

"In the secondary, if you aren't quite there as a group, yet, you get exposed very quickly," Daley said.

Yeah, but every week?

"We have the makings of a very good secondary," Daley insisted.

Bomber fans can only hope, and pray, he's right.


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