Bending, not breaking

SCOTT UNGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

They're bending, but not breaking. Bowing, but not collapsing. Drifting, but not getting lost in the end zone.

Eventually though, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers pass coverage will have to either strengthen their efforts or risk crumbling with all the stretching opponents have been doing to them over the first five weeks of the season.

In Winnipeg's 36-18 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last Friday, the Bombers defensive dozen allowed Hamilton quarterback Jason Maas to throw for 341 yards and complete 29-of-44 pass attempts. None of those completions were for touchdowns and Hamilton was forced to attempt seven field goals - six of which were good.

'PROMISING'

"We haven't played all that bad, we haven't played our greatest game either," said defensive back Kelly Malveaux, who has been one of the few common starters in a Bombers secondary which has been smacked repeatedly by the injury bug.

"That's what's promising. I think we have some good ball ahead of us. I think we have yet to play great on all aspects of the game at any give game at this point. When we start clicking, we'll be that much more explosive."

Through five games, the Blue and Gold have given up the most passing yards of any team in the CFL at 1,550, a league high in average passing yards per game at 310 and the most completions allowed at 142. Winnipeg's defenders have also allowed eight of the nine touchdowns they have given up this season through the air.

Bleak numbers they may be, but the Bombers' 3-1-1 record in the standings far overshadows any other stat, for the most part.

"It does matter, but I am not going to say that I'm worried about it," said Winnipeg head coach Doug Berry, whose club heads into Hamilton Friday for the back end of the home-and-home set.

"Let's not forget we have a new SAM linebacker (Cam Hall), a new WILL linebacker (Corey Jenkins) and our secondary has been changed around significantly.

"On both sides of the ball you want to work with each other and we're still working to that end."

Jenkins, who had an interception against Hamilton last week, thinks it's unrealistic in the CFL to expect that the opposition won't put up at least average passing numbers.

'KIND IF TOUGH'

"This a passing league," he said. "For anyone to think that you're just going to go out and completely shut the passing game down, it's kind of tough.

"You have two downs to get a first down, so a lot of people are going to put the ball in the air."

Despite the poor pass-stopping numbers, the defence has been extremely stingy against the run. The Bombers have allowed a league second-best 411 yards on the ground and only one rushing touchdown.

"If you stop the running game, teams are going to have to go to the pass," Jenkins said.

For coach Berry, the bigger issue is how much time the defence is spending on the field. Winnipeg has given up 112 first downs this season, which is two less that Hamilton's league-worst mark of 114.

"We don't want another (offence) team on the field," he stressed. "We play our best defence when the offence is on the field."


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