Give him the damn ball

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:08 PM ET

It's a familiar refrain around these parts when the season turns sour: Get the ball to Charles Roberts more.

Heck, even quarterback Kevin Glenn said it the other day.

So we went directly to the head coach, the man in charge, the head cheese, and asked him straight up: Should Roberts be getting the ball more?

"I don't know," Winnipeg Blue Bombers boss Doug Berry said. "I can't comment on that. I really don't know."

Is that a "maybe?"

"Yeah, maybe. Maybe not," Berry said. "I'm not coming away from either game saying, 'Ugh! We should've given the ball to the back a lot more.' I don't have that feeling. Could we have? Maybe."

Thanks for clearing that up.

It should be pointed out that Friday night's 38-24 loss to Montreal, which dropped Winnipeg's record to 0-2, was an anomaly. The Bombers fell behind 28-0, and when that happens the running back might as well go home.

However, in the season-opener against the Toronto Argonauts, a team that couldn't stop the run with the Great Wall of China at its disposal, the Bombers gave the ball to Blink 13 times for 76 yards.

"You can't count 13, because we probably pulled the ball seven or eight more times on him," Berry said. "They're taking the run away, so we gotta pull the ball."

(On a side note, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats had 311 rushing yards against the Argos five days ago.)

You can throw out variables until the cows come home -- injuries on the offensive line, the score, the defence, the quarterback, the weather, the field conditions, the drunk guy yelling too loudly in section S -- but the bottom line is this: When Roberts runs the ball a lot and therefore piles up the yards, the Bombers usually win the football game.

Since Roberts became the featured tailback in 2002, the Bombers are 22-6 when he gets at least 20 carries. They are 32-8 when he tops the 100-yard plateau.

Numbers don't lie, but Berry isn't much of a numbers guy.

"It's all history," Berry said. "We've handed the ball off to Roberts in the years that I've been here. He's got his carries, and I know what he's capable of."

Berry's offensive philosophy is passing to set up the run. This is the CFL after all, so you can't fault him for that.

Roberts, however, is a special talent who needed only six seasons to become the franchise's career rushing leader. He's a workhorse who gets better each time he touches the ball.

The Bombers often give up on him too early, like on Friday night. Roberts got zero yards on the first play of the game, and though the Als weren't necessarily committed to stopping the run (Berry's words), Blink's number wasn't called until three two-and-outs later.

By that time the Als led 14-0. After that it was pass, pass, pass.

All offensive co-ordinator Kit Cartwright needs to remember is this: The Bombers were 5-0 last season when Roberts hauled the rock at least 20 times. Two of those contests just so happened to be the East semifinal and final.

If that's a philosophy you turn to when you need it most, why not do it as much as possible?


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