Bombers walk the walk

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

We interrupt the end of the world for the following news flash: the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have a .500 record for the first time in 21 months.

And if that's not enough, how's this: Mike Kelly's squad backed up every bit of its head coach's bravado in throttling the defending champion Calgary Stampeders last night.

Playing their home debut before a sellout crowd that was probably rubbing its eyes in disbelief, the Bombers looked a lot like the team Kelly has been telling us he envisioned.

But so soon -- who would have believed it?

Judging by the call-in shows and the message boards, half the city feared a train wreck of a home opener.

That breeze you felt last night was simply 29,000 exhaling simultaneously, as the Bombers trotted off the field leading, 21-4, at half-time.

"How do you like the first half, so far?" president/CEO Lyle Bauer bellowed into the microphone during the Milt Stegall hall-of-fame ceremony, and you could hear the satisfaction -- maybe even a touch of relief? -- in the old O-lineman's voice.

With apologies to Jeff Reinebold, we've never seen a head coach create such a stir going into a season. Unlike Harley boy, Kelly has drawn visceral reaction from both camps.

Love him or hate him, you had to like what you saw last night, a 42-30 count that flattered the defending champs.

We confess, we were taken aback, too.

Not that we thought Kelly didn't have a clue. We just didn't know.

We've been busy critiquing everything he's done off the field, so it's time to focus on what really matters.

After last night, we'll say this: the man's football sense is certainly better than his sense of public relations.

Here's what we liked most, in no particular order, about Home Opener, 2009:

- The opening kickoff: when's the last time we saw a Bomber team open with an onside kick? Never mind that it worked, the simple fact Kelly called it says everything about the man.

The guy's as bold as they come. Damn what anybody thinks, damn the potential negative consequences -- Kelly's done things his way off the field, and he's clearly going to do them his way on it.

- Terrence Edwards: any questions left about how Edwards will respond to the banishment of his good friend and fellow receiver, Derick Armstrong?

Shouldn't be, after the way No. 82 did his best Stegall impersonation by fighting for a pair of touchdowns.

Nice touch, too, the way Edwards showed off a pair of Armstrong's gloves for the TV cameras after his first major.

Edwards was the highlight of a solid night by the local pass-catchers, who dealt with their share of difficult passes from a less-than-perfect Stefan LeFors.

- LeFors: the Bomber pivot didn't remind anybody of Dieter Brock, and he left some points on the field by throwing behind people. But for the second straight week he showed some grit, plenty of smarts and oodles of mobility.

If progress is what you're looking for, LeFors did that.

And hey, he went home with his first career victory.

- The dirty dozen: there wasn't too much wrong with this group last week, but it was even better against the Stamps.

The Bombers scored 28 points off five defensive turnovers, and this was without Doug Brown on the line.

It's obvious Henry Burris and the Stamps offence had another off day, but first-year Bombers like Siddeeq Shabazz, Jonathan Hefney, Lenny Walls and Fred Perry will make people forget all about Kelly Malveaux, Jerome Haywood and Tom Canada if they keep this up.

All in all, an impressive home debut for a bunch that needed this like a dying man needs a friend.

Instead of being run out of town, the man behind it got a bucket of ice dumped on him, and a nice ovation.

The world is not ending, after all.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.


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