Bombers look to compete

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

There’s a not-so-fine line between first and worst in the CFL’s East Division.

The nine games that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers lost by four or fewer points last season dropped them to the bottom of the standings with a 4-14 record.

Had they gone the other way, the Bombers would have found themselves two points ahead of the first-place Montreal Alouettes, who led the East at 12-6.

“I’ve got it in one of our first team meetings to use the letters T-B-U,” said Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice. “Those things are true but useless. We have to have the understanding that they were close, but they were still losses and that’s the first thing we have to understand. We’re not in this to get close, we’re in this to win.”

An off-season of studying game film showed all to often the Bombers defence allowing a game-winning drive or the offence stalling with a chance to tie or win.

“I know we had an occasion last year where we dropped the ball in the end zone or we would have won the game,” LaPolice said. “So we’re trying to educate that these wins and losses happen as a team: offence, defence and special teams.

“I hope they’ve learned from their mistakes and they’ve learned how to finish in some of these situations.”

Like in Week 15 last season, when quarterback Steven Jyles sparked a dominant comeback after trailing 32-11 to the B.C. Lions after three quarters. The Bombers outscored them 21-0 in the fourth quarter to force an overtime frame that they won 15-3.

“I hope that’s what we’re going to see more from this club this year, and that’s what we expect from them,” LaPolice said.

Only it won’t be with Steven Jyles, whom the Bombers traded to the Toronto Argonauts for a first-round selection in this year’s draft.

Jyles was the only experienced backup Winnipeg had after losing Buck Pierce to an elbow injury. If and when Pierce goes down again this year, they will be forced to rely solely on backups Joey Elliott and Alex Brink.

“(Elliott) is really somewhat a leader and demanding when he hasn’t even been here that long. I think the players really responded to him,” LaPolice said. “He had an opportunity to play and get two starts under his belt. Some teams tried to blitz him and bring pressure. He saw that, looked it right in the eye and threw strikes.

“There’s a lot of positives to him. He’s a lot more mobile than people give him credit for. The thing I like most about him, very similar to Buck, is he makes the decision and he throws quickly.”

LaPolice added although Jyles had been in the league since 2006, he had just one start before taking over for Pierce last year.

“I think if any team in the Canadian Football League loses their quarterback, there will be an adjustment period,” LaPolice said, defending the Jyles trade. “When you do those things, you have to make some tough decisions. We really have a lot of confidence in some of the things Joey did last year.

“When you lose a guy, our job is to replace them. If we never move on from people, we’d never let the new leaders show up.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/Gerry_EdmSun


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