Blue's big step backward

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

So that's what the Blue Bombers look like without Milt Stegall.

That was scarier than Don King's hair.

The first-place team in the CFL East, a team that has designs on sending Stegall into retirement with a Grey Cup ring, waltzes into the home of a division rival -- scene of this year's championship game, too -- and falls behind, 31-2?

If that was a sneak preview of life after Milt, I'm not sticking around for the feature attraction.

It was in the lead up to Sunday's loss in Toronto that D-lineman Doug Brown first suggested this game would be a great time for the Bombers to prove they've kicked their addiction to No. 85.

Stegall himself said basically the same thing.

"You'll get a glimpse of the future if I can't go," Stegall, nursing a shoulder injury, told reporters in Toronto Saturday.

Bomber fans have seen the future -- and it sucks.

Apparently, No. 85 remains this team's crack cocaine.

Because without Stegall in the lineup, the offensive line apparently forgets how to block for Charles Roberts. And without Stegall, the guy calling the offensive plays forgets about Roberts. Six carries? For seven yards? This is the defending rushing champ, someone who averages 100 yards-plus against the Argos. Go figure.

Without Stegall, quarterback Kevin Glenn apparently reverts to throwing game-turning interceptions, too.

And last, but certainly not least, without Stegall the special teams don't have a clue. No, wait -- they've been clueless all year.

Let us count the ways:

- Dominique Dorsey wasn't good enough to crack the Bomber lineup, but in about 10 seconds Sunday he did something nobody in Winnipeg seems able to: he broke a kick return for a touchdown.

- Two more missed field goals for Troy Westwood leaves Old Lefty batting .560, at 14-for-25 -- great numbers for a left-handed hitter, but the worst field goal percentage the CFL has seen for years.

- Give the special teams credit for one thing: they lead the league in giving up successful fake kicks.

It's gotten to the point where head coach Doug Berry is happy when his kicking units are average . They don't have to do anything good -- just don't really screw up.

Most of this, of course, has nothing to do with Stegall. At least, directly.

However, in a season that's all about sending the great receiver off with the ultimate parting gift, a game like Sunday's raises a rather troubling question: is this team good enough to go two steps further than it did a year ago?

NAGGING FEELING

It's true, this wasn't a playoff game, and the 7-4-1 Bombers are still on track to not only host one this time around, but to get the bye that comes with a first-place finish.

In the standings, at least, this loss might be easily shrugged off.

The nagging feeling accompanying it, though, isn't.

It's been said the true measure of a team is its special teams. The Bombers better hope that's not true. Because they're still dealing with the same issues in the kicking game they've dealt with all season.

We haven't even mentioned the trouble they have with the Argos and quarterback Michael Bishop, who can thank the Bomber defence for turning him into a starter in last year's East semifinal.

In two meetings since, the Bombers have a last-second, 15-13 win last month over an Argos team playing its fourth quarterback, followed by Sunday's debacle.

If you're looking for evidence to suggest a playoff result this year would be any different, move along -- you won't find it here.

Sunday's stumble was also a lousy ad for the next home game, Saturday against Hamilton. The Bombers were hoping for a sixth straight sellout.

All we can say is, good luck with that.


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