Pass defence key to success

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

It has become the formula for success for teams opposing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers:

Dump off short passes and watch the uncovered receiver being chased downfield. Then, when and if the secondary tightens up, throw the ball over top to a wide-open pass catcher.

If the play of quarterback Kevin Glenn is now Winnipeg's primary concern, the awful coverage by the secondary is at least of, well, secondary concern. This is, after all, a pass-happy league and opposing squads are even happier much too often when they face the Bombers.

Calgary quarterback Henry (Smilin' Hank) Burris completed 28 of 36 passes for 337 yards and five touchdowns when the Stamps happily stomped the Bombers 37-16 in Cowtown last weekend. The week before, Toronto quarterback Kerry Joseph completed 25 of 36 passes for 311 yards in a losing cause to Winnipeg. And so on.

Winnipeg's aerial defence ranks third-last in the CFL in average passing yards allowed per game and second-last in passes completed.

HOT HAND

"We certainly gave up more (passes) than we wanted, especially big plays for touchdowns (versus Calgary)," said Bomber head coach Doug Berry. "We will have some injured guys coming back and we will find a way to make some adjustments."

The secondary did have to adjust on the fly after losing veteran defensive back Anthony Malbrough to injury early in the match, and Burris did have the hot hand.

"It was frustrating but it wasn't all on (Burris)," said Bomber safety Ian Logan. "We made mistakes ourselves. We didn't play the perfect game and we definitely left a lot of mistakes on the field."

In fact, Burris was given enough time to fool Logan a number of times.

"He did a good job of giving me different looks, showing me different things, looking me off and things like that," Logan admitted.

That left cornerbacks like Robert Bean on their own deep and he paid the price several times.

"I always get down on myself, even if I've had a good game," Bean said. "You've got to shake it off and go on to the next play. You get beaten once, you come back out and try not to get beaten again. If you get too down on yourself, then things could go wrong all the way around. You've got to have a short memory as a defensive back and you just try to make a play.

"We knew they were going to make plays. They're a good offence; they're No. 1 in the West and everything. We were just trying to keep them from making the big plays, so it was kind of frustrating that they made some plays. We kind of made some mistakes and a couple of guys got hurt and we had to change around some positions. ... But we learned from it and will try to move on to this next week."

It won't be any easier this week as the Bombers face the CFL's leading passer, Anthony Calvillo, and three of the top six receivers in the league in Montreal this Sunday.

"We just have to make sure that we stay basic and execute our coverages, and make them have to make the choices to make a good play," Bean said.

At least the Bombers have two regular-season games left to get their air defence sorted out.

"It's good going into the playoffs that we play against the best of the best," Logan said. "We learned things from this last week and I look forward to this competition to see what (Calvillo) has to offer because we're going to have to face them again in the championship, or to get to the championship."

Without better pass coverage, though, any talk of a championship remains idle chatter.


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