'Peg defence sacks bad rep

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

Saying the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defence is much better than a year ago would be an massive understatement.

How could a CFL team not improve after setting the record for most yards allowed in a single season?

But to go from worst to first is tough in any league and the Bombers have done just that heading into tonight's matchup at McMahon Stadium with the Calgary Stampeders (7 p.m.).

When head coach Doug Berry came over from Montreal this off-season after leaving his post as the Als offensive co-ordinator, he brought with him the attitude that defence wins championships.

"That's the first thing we addressed when I became the head coach," said Berry, a head-coaching rookie after 30 years in the game. "We wanted to get the defence on track and see if the offence could catch up with it. You can't win in this league when the defence is consistently giving up yards.

"We've taken care of that this year and it's been a big part of our success."

Berry's cause was helped when Bombers GM Brendan Taman brought in free-agent linebacker Barrin Simpson, traded for defensive back Kelly Malveaux and signed former NFLer Ron Warner.

The rebuilding process actually started late last season when Taman shipped safety Wes Lysack to Calgary for cornerback Anthony Malbrough.

But the twice former Stampeder said the biggest difference he saw from the end of 2005 to this season is defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall, who Berry hired despite competing with him for the head job.

The former Eskimos and Renegades coach has made veterans like Malbrough accountable for their actions and the results have shown on the field. The Bombers are first in the league with 296 yards total offence allowed per game in building a 6-6 record.

"Coach Marshall doesn't scream and yell or try to be a dictator," Malbrough said.

"He treats us like men. If there is a mistake we made on film, he will ask us what we had there.

"If we answer the question, he's fine with that. Because he understands we know what we're doing. If we don't have an answer, then he teaches us and coaches us up on it."

The key to the Stamps offence is often running back Joffrey Reynolds, who sits second in the league rushing behind Winnipeg's Charles Roberts.

Malbrough said the Bombers will try to shut down Reynolds early and force the Stamps into deep passing situations. And the Bombers are toughest against the run in the league allowing an average of 76 yards rushing per game.


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