Meet the stuff guys

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers made a career out of stuffing the Montreal Alouettes on third-and-one last season.

Check that. Barrin Simpson made a career of it.

No fewer than three times did Simpson, the man known as the Minister of Defence, prevent the Alouettes from executing one of the easiest plays in the CFL: advancing one yard when the defence is already one yard off the ball.

Two of Simpson's third-and-one stops were on Winnipeg's one-yard line, preventing the Als from scoring sure touchdowns, but his most important stuff occurred near midfield.

It was late in the East Division semifinal at Canad Inns Stadium on Remembrance Day. The Als led 22-21, and all they needed was a yard to put the final nail in the Bombers' coffin.

Marcus Brady tried a quarterback sneak, but there was Simpson, stuffing the play before it could even begin. The Als turned the ball over at their own 44-yard line, and Troy Westwood booted the game-winning field goal as time expired.

Winnipeg went on to the Grey Cup, while Montreal went home and fired their coach, Jim Popp, who stayed on as GM.

Tonight at Molson Stadium in Montreal (6 p.m., TSN/CJOB) the Bombers (0-1) and Alouettes (1-0) tangle in their first meaningful game since last year's East semifinal.

Simpson deflected the question when asked if his defensive dominance of the Als last year will give him a mental edge tonight as the Bombers seek their first win of the season.

"I don't know if (new Als head coach Marc) Trestman would gamble as much as Popp would, but usually on third-and-one a team's going to go for it," Simpson said.

"But they do it different this year. They don't do the same quarterback sneak alignment, so it may be a little different."

Simpson paused, then smiled. "But we'll get a feel for it."

Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown, who also had a role in last year's crucial drive discontinuation in the East semi, believes there is no such thing as confidence carryover in the CFL.

"I didn't feel too mentally superior to them when we were down in the fourth quarter and they only had a minute to kill on the clock and we were losing in the Eastern semifinal," Brown said. "I didn't feel too mentally superior there.

"... (But) that was last year. They might have worked on that since, so we'll see. You tend to address your weaknesses."

The Bombers won all four meetings against the Alouettes last season, although Montreal was missing quarterback Anthony Calvillo in the regular-season finale and the playoff game.

Calvillo looked sharp in his return last week (a 34-10 thumping of Hamilton), and the Bombers are well aware of what the second-leading passer in CFL history can do.

"It's always a dogfight with Montreal," Brown said. "They're a very good team. Their offence and AC, they give us fits every time we play them."

The Bombers offence, meanwhile, scored only one touchdown in three visits to the red zone (inside the 20-yard line) in last week's season-opening 23-16 loss to the Toronto Argonauts. Slotback Terrence Edwards vowed that Winnipeg's point getters will light up the scoreboard a little more this evening.

"Speaking on behalf of the offence," Edwards said, "the offence is going to come out and play better, we're going to execute better in the red zone, and we're going to play, overall, a better game."


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