Offence needs better defence

TED WYMAN

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

If not for the fact that football is the most multi-faceted of sports, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers just might be well on their way to a Grey Cup title this year.

The Bombers are an offensively gifted team with the talent and the game plan to make a run at a championship.

The offence has been consistently productive both on the ground and through the air and that's the reason why the Bombers are in first place in the East, even after last weekend's slugfest loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

As they prepare for a rematch with the Riders in Sunday's Banjo Bowl at the stadium, the Bombers can take heart in the fact that they are 5-3-1 on the season, still have an excellent shot at hosting the Eastern Final and have three offensive players who are at least CFL all-stars, if not Most Outstanding Player candidates.

Quarterback Kevin Glenn is having his finest season as a pro, while running back Charles Roberts and receiver Milt Stegall are doing what they always do to give the Bombers the most dangerous attack in the league.

Unfortunately, that might not be enough.

As we mentioned previously, football is a multi-faceted game, and a great offence can only take a team so far.

While they've shown flashes of brilliance, the Bombers have sometimes missed the mark in two out of three of the most important facets of the game -- defence and special teams.

Even Peyton Manning couldn't win a Grey Cup with a team that allows opponents to start at midfield far too often, that has a suspect (at best) kicking game and has a defence that is prone to giving up big plays.

"This one's on the defence," Bombers defensive lineman Doug Brown said after the Bombers lost 31-26 in a thrilling Labour Day Classic in Regina.

FAR FROM HORRIBLE

You might say that about the season to date. While the defence has been far from horrible, how dominant would this team be if the defensive dozen was having the same kind of year as the offensive unit?

Just to refresh your memories -- in case you've been trying block out the last minute of the Labour Day Classic -- the Roughriders drove the ball 91 yards while trailing the Bombers by two and capped it with a 27-yard touchdown run by quarterback Kerry Joseph to pull out the win.

That was just part of the 482 yards of total offence put up by the Riders, a number that will almost always be good enough to win a game. That is, of course, unless you are the Bombers, who posted 488 yards of offence and came away with nothing.

Glenn had 393 yards passing, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. You would be hard-pressed to believe those are losing numbers. And the quarterback has had those kinds of numbers all season.

All this being said, there's plenty of reason to believe the defence can rebound and become a powerful force as the Bombers get ready for a playoff run.

With players like Brown, Barrin Simpson, Kyries Hebert and Jerome Haywood and a defensive guru like coach Greg Marshall involved, the unit is bound to have a few dominant games.

With the addition Wednesday of DB Juran Bolden and LB Ike Charlton from the NFL, improvement seems imminent.

"I believe in this team, I believe in this defence," Hebert said after the Labour Day Classic. "I know at the end of the day we'll be the guys on top."

Even if the defence does start hitting on all cylinders, the Bombers still have some concerns on special teams, particularly when it comes to the kicking game. Rob Pikula has been adequate at best at both punting and placekicking and adequate likely won't cut it come November.

Football can be a lot like golf at times. When one part of the game is working, something else goes wrong, creating a level of frustration only those who have seen a perfect drive ruined by a shanked wedge can understand.

But when all aspects of the game are working at once, golf can be the most beautiful game in the world and the same goes for football, albeit a much more rough-and-tumble type of beauty.

Before we declare the Bombers a true Grey Cup contender, we'd like to see all aspects of their game come together.

The all-important rematch with the Riders on Sunday would be a good place to start.


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