Bombers on the Brink

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:26 PM ET

They had just lost their eighth game in their last nine tries and Winnipeg head coach Paul LaPolice wondered aloud whether quarterback Steven Jyles can make the grade.

Jyles has just a 2-6 record as the Blue Bombers’ starter this season and LaPolice even admitted toying with the idea of starting backup Alex Brink. Jyles, who did not start each of the last nine, took over as the main man when the Blue Bombers lost Buck Pierce to injury during the Labour Day Classic in Regina.

LaPolice, whose team is now a league-worst 3-10, did not change his tune Monday.

“He’s had a lot of opportunities to lead us to wins (and didn’t),” he said. “I know a lot of it falls on the quarterback, unfair enough. That’s what happens — as an offence goes, so a quarterback goes.

“So, we’ve struggled at that aspect at times and we’ve struggled at ball security at times. If we have zero turnovers in that game, I’ve got to think we win that football game. He’s struggled, at times, with that process.”

Jyles actually only threw one interception against the Lions, who converted it into a touchdown. But he also fumbled the ball, then recovered it well behind the line of scrimmage, taking his team out of field-goal range in a tight CFL contest.

“We had opportunities to score early on and we didn’t,” LaPolice said. “We had opportunities in the third quarter to protect the ball and we didn’t. When you’re playing a tough, defensive-minded game, whomever makes the most mistakes, that’s (loss) what happens.

“If it (turnover) happens too much, we can’t accept it … You make good decisions, then those things don’t happen.”

Jyles completed 21 of 37 passes for 258 yards and one touchdown but, once again, failed to lead the squad to victory in crunch time.

“We should have done more offensively to put the game out of reach, and we wouldn’t have had to worry about their (winning) field goal,” Jyles admitted when the team arrived at the airport Sunday.

LaPolice even considered replacing Jyles with Brink — who started the season as No. 3 — when the Bomber offence bogged down in the third quarter.

“We had a bad third quarter but, in the fourth quarter, Steven took us down and got us in field-goal range and we missed it,” he said. “Then, I think we (wide receiver Greg Carr) dropped a ball and we had to kick another field goal. So, he put us into position in the fourth quarter.

“If we miss that (32-yard) throw to (slotback) Terrence Edwards, I might have gone to Alex because we had to do something. We held a team to 16 points, we had to score more points. Fair or unfair, we had to find a way to be better.”

LaPolice did not rule out starting Brink in the re-match with the Lions here on Thanksgiving Monday.

“We’ll make decisions in a couple of days and we’ll see,” he said.

The quarterback spot is not the only one under scrutiny.

“That’s at every position, from our starting wide receiver to our punter,” LaPolice said. “We’ve gotta find guys who can help us win football games because we get close and we need the guys who can take us over the edge — whether that’s an interception at the end of the game, whether that’s a kickoff return for a touchdown, whether that’s a big-time block, or just not making any mental errors, or making every catch.”

Jyles, however, seemed confident.

“You have to stay positive,” he said. “I mean, I feel we can win out. If we win every ball game, we’ll just let everything take care of itself on the season. But, we have to take care of the problems we have.”

— With files from Kirk Penton

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


Photos