Ordinary air guard

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

Doug Berry was perusing the stats sheet on the way home from Montreal last week when Anthony Calvillo's numbers jumped off the page.

"I saw he was 33 for 38 for 354 yards (and one touchdown) and I thought, 'How did we not lose that game?'" said the Blue Bombers head coach. "Then I looked further down the page and saw Kevin's numbers."

Quarterback Kevin Glenn had completed 21 of 24 passes for 258 yards and one TD, with no picks, as Winnipeg edged the Alouettes 20-18 in their own ballpark.

On Friday night, Hamilton quarterback Jason Maas completed 29 of 44 passes for 341 yards and he missed several wide-open targets while under constant pressure from the Bomber front seven. But once again, Glenn engineered more points than the Hamilton offence as the Bombers won 36-18.

But the bottom line is that the erratic Winnipeg secondary is of primary concern right now. It continues to be dead last in the CFL in terms of pass prevention and if any part of the defence suffers, it all suffers. That aspect of the match was overlooked in the aftermath of all the celebrations over Milt Stegall's record-achieving performance. But the Bombers just cannot afford to keep giving up so many yards through the air and they know it.

"That's got to get fixed," Bombers GM Brendan Taman agreed yesterday.

Luckily for Winnipeg, it has still managed to win three and tie one of its first five games in spite of the leaky aerial defence.

"But that trend will change one way or another," Taman said.

That means that either the air guard will improve or the Bombers will start losing because they cannot stop the pass.

"We made way too many mistakes in our passing game and zone drops and stuff like that," Bomber middle linebacker Barrin Simpson after Friday's contest. "We just got out of synch and made too many mistakes to make plays. That hurt us but we did what we needed to do to win the game.

"We got caught up in the (Stegall) moment. I'm glad to still get the win out of it but we got out of synch a little bit in that game and started screwing up, basically. We started giving up plays and not making them (Tiger-Cats) earn it and not making them earn drives."

Sure, the Bombers have faced some of the CFL's best passers, including Calvillo and Edmonton's Ricky Ray, and a string of injuries to defensive backfield starters has taken its toll. But it is doubtful that any of those nursing hurts will be back in time for this Friday's re-match in Hamilton so, it will be up to those who are still healthy to pick up the pace.

The Bombers helped Stegall celebrate his all-time TD record during the game but the true celebration remains on hold until Stegall can win his first Grey Cup title. And it's defence that wins championships, not record-breaking offences. And right now, the defensive dozen remains short of being a championship-calibre unit.

To its credit, that defence has still managed to come up big with games on the line in four of five outings thus far.

"I wish we could've played a little better on defence early in the game, but when it was crunch time we did what we had to do," said veteran defensive back Kelly Malveaux.

At crunch time, Simpson intercepted a Maas pass and the offence then did its thing.

But you can bet that the Tiger-Cats know that their best chance to win their first game of the current campaign will be by taking advantage of Winnipeg's most glaring weakness this week.


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