TORONTO — - Five of Winnipeg’s eight losses this season have been by seven points or fewer and blah-de-blah-blah-blah.
Doug Brown is sick of hearing it, and the frustration boiling up inside the veteran Bomber defensive tackle was never more evident than after Sunday’s 17-13 loss to the Toronto Argonauts in front of 19,662 spectators at Rogers Centre.
“I’m just tired of it, bro,” the big man’s voice cracking just a little. “It’s frustrating to be close and to be inconsistent, to play like we did in the Banjo Bowl, complete as a team, and just not show up at the most inopportune times in the phases required to be successful out here.”
The loss, which was Winnipeg’s seventh in a row on the road dating back to last season, all but extinguishes the team’s chances of making the playoffs through the East Division. The Bombers fell to 3-8 and are now six points back of both the Argos and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who are tied for second at 6-5.
The real killer is the Bombers have now lost the season series to both clubs, meaning they’re four games back of a playoff spot with seven weeks to go. Safety Ian Logan figures Winnipeg’s only path to the post-season is through the crossover spot in the West Division, where the third-place Lions are also 3-8.
“It looks like it right now, yeah,” Logan said. “We’ll have to see how it all sorts out, but we’re in a tough spot right now.”
Winnipeg hosts the Montreal Alouettes (8-3) on Friday at Canad Inns Stadium and then has a huge home-and-home with B.C.
The Bomber defence provided plenty of opportunity to get the win on Sunday, like holding Argos quarterback Cleo Lemon to a paltry 90 passing yards, but Winnipeg’s offence and special teams did the opposite.
Chad Owens had an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter, and the Winnipeg offence, despite racking up 351 net yards, got inside Toronto’s 30-yard line just twice.
Justin Palardy booted a 34-yard field goal the first time it happened, but the Bombers turned it over on the second. That came with two minutes to go in the fourth, when, trailing 17-13, fullback Andre Sadeghian — on his first carry of the year — was stuffed on third-and-one at the Argo 27.
The Bombers were also plagued by three drops and a Steven Jyles fumble on the last play of the third quarter at midfield.
“I truly feel the offence let the defence down today,” said Jyles, who completed 15 of 28 passes for 219 yards, one touchdown and an interception on a last-second Hail Mary attempt. “Our defence did a great job at stopping them. They only had two scoring drives.”
The Argos took a 7-6 lead on Owens’ touchdown, and Justin Medlock’s 50-yard field goal gave the hosts, who snapped a three-game losing streak, a 10-6 edge after three quarters.
Toronto had its only touchdown drive of the game five minutes into the fourth, capped by Lemon’s eight-yard toss to Jeremaine Copeland in the end zone that made it 17-6. The drive started on Winnipeg’s 50.
The Bombers struck back immediately, with Jyles finding Terrence Edwards on a 39-yard touchdown toss that gave the visitors life.
Brown, however, felt the Argos, who were missing league rushing leader Cory Boyd due to a concussion, should not even have been in the game at that point.
“We should have stepped on their throats in the first half,” he said, “but they hang around, they hang around, they crack a big play on special teams, and their defence closes it out for them. That’s the story of playing Toronto in a nutshell, man.”