Bombers need to find a way to win

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:47 PM ET

VANCOUVER - The evolution of yet another Bomber season gone wrong has officially entered the serious stage, with head coach Paul LaPolice firing shots across the bow.

The first couple of losses were no big deal, because no team was going to go undefeated.

When the close setbacks started piling up, the coaches and players said they were close and just needed to learn how to win.

Now the tone is different. They've lost eight of their last nine games following Saturday night's 16-14 defeat to the B.C. Lions, they're 3-10, which is their worst record at this point of the season since Jeff Reinebold's final year of 1998, and they've been all but eliminated from playoff contention.

The time for excuses has run out.

"We have to seriously look at what's going on with us," a despondent LaPolice said outside the visitors' trailer at Empire Field on Saturday night. "We gotta find guys who can lead us to wins in a number of spots. We gotta find a way to do that."

Asked specifically about the play of quarterback Steven Jyles, who completed 21 of 37 passes for 258 yards, one touchdown and one interception but generated only four second-half points, LaPolice's answer sounded somewhat like an ultimatum for the first-year starter.

"We gotta keep figuring out whether he's the guy," LaPolice said. "We haven't won a lot of football games."

Jyles also fumbled late in the second quarter, and even though he recovered it, the mistake pulled the Bombers out of field goal range. And even though his interception in the third quarter was plucked in Lions' territory and returned to the 55-yard line, B.C. still turned it into seven points that got them rolling.

"We had a throw for Brock (Ralph), and the guy made a play," Jyles said of the pick. "It was good coverage. I should've pulled that one down and just tried to go somewhere else with it and make a play some other way. I'll take the interception.

"The fumble was me trying to make a play. I could've thrown that one away, too. And that's what hurts me the most, is mistakes with myself. I could've made two better decisions that would've changed the outcome of the ball game."

There were several other Bomber moments that could have changed the outcome of the ball game:

- Winnipeg had one first down in the third quarter, when the Lions erased their 10-0 half-time deficit to make it 10-10 going into the fourth;

- Bomber placekicker Justin Palardy missed a 29-yard field goal midway through the fourth that would have tied the game (on Winnipeg's next drive he connected on a 26-yarder that gave the Bombers a 14-13 lead);

- The Bomber defence couldn't stop fleet-footed Lions quarterback Travis Lulay from engineering a 12-play, 77-yard, game-winning march late in the fourth that ate up 5:11 of the clock. Paul McCallum's 19-yard field goal with 12 seconds left capped the drive and gave the Lions the win.

The Bombers shut out their opponent in the first half for the second time in their last three games, and once again, like they did in Toronto on Sept. 19, they went on to lose the match. Cornerback Jovon Johnson, who let Geroy Simon catch a pair of second-down passes on the game-winning drive, said the defence won't blame the offence.

"I could've stopped a couple of those plays," Johnson said. "I was in position to make the play. Geroy's a great receiver and he made some big catches, so you gotta give it to him.

At the end of the day it falls on us. We shut them out in the first half. We should've shut them out in the second half."

Lulay, who got the start in over the struggling Casey Printers, completed 21 of 33 attempts for 237 yards to collect his first CFL win as a starter. He also carried the ball nine times for 57 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown run in the third quarter where he leaped over Johnson and into the end zone.

The Bombers have lost six games by four points or fewer this season and another one by seven. They fell to 0-7 on the road and have lost eight straight away from Canad Inns Stadium dating back to last season.

They host the Lions (5-8) in the second half of the home-and-home on Thanksgiving Monday.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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