Not-so special teams

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

Doug Berry won't rule anything out when it comes to turning around the Winnipeg Blue Bombers special teams, most notably its punting units.

The Bombers are 5-2-1 and in first place in the East Division after a 15-13 win over the Toronto Argonauts on Friday night. But they were victorious despite their punt and punt cover teams.

"We lost 169 yards in field position alone, just in the punting game. That does not include the (26-yard) fake punt," the Bomber head coach said yesterday afternoon. "That's why I didn't sleep last night."

JUSTIFIED

The Bombers on Friday night justified the adage that special teams is just as important as offence and defence. The offence had 403 total yards, while the defence allowed only 179.

The poor special teams play was essentially the reason why Winnipeg needed Rob Pikula's 28-yard field goal to win the game with seven seconds left.

"That's what's hurting us," middle linebacker Barrin Simpson said. "It's not the offence, because they played great. But we're losing the field-position game, and we gotta fix that to be a championship team."

Bombers punt returner Albert Johnson III averaged 4.5 yards on Friday night, while the three Argos returners averaged 22.2 yards. Pikula averaged 37 yards on his eight punts, while Toronto's Noel Prefontaine was masterful, booting his eight kicks an average of 43.6 yards.

To put those figures further into perspective, Winnipeg started, on average, at its own 19-yard line after Prefontaine's punts. Toronto average starting point after Pikula's eight punts was its own 47-yard line.

The Bombers don't return to the practice field until Tuesday since the next time they play is a week from today in the 41st annual Labour Day Classic against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

That will give Berry three days to figure out how he and special teams coach Cory McDiarmid are going to tackle their special teams woes. One option is using more starters, another is adjusting the strategy and a third is bringing in new players all together.

Berry didn't exactly say no yesterday when asked if he was considering bringing in competition for Pikula, who is dead last in the CFL in both gross and net punting.

"There's always a possibility for anything here," Berry said. "I don't think that there's anything happening right away. Even if the NFL cuts are coming up, that's still two or three weeks away."

Bombers GM Brendan Taman said last night, however, that he is not looking for a new punter.


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