WINNIPEG - OK, I’m impressed.
Seven weeks into the CFL campaign, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are looking good. Double-take good.
They are the league’s supermodel, strutting down the runway clutching an enviable 6-1 mark, curves in all the right places and shampoo-commercial hair bouncing with every high-heeled step.
It’s quite a transformation from the pimply kid of a year ago, when the only heads this babe turned belonged to those who couldn’t stand to see the pain of another close rejection.
Now, she’s drawing jealous stares from across the country, even stirring up a little resentment.
Nobody likes a confident winner that’s not on their own arm.
The Bombers are simply beaming, thanks to a defence that leads the league in making life miserable for opposing arms.
Tops in passing yards allowed per game, average gain per pass, completion percentage against, most interceptions, fewest touchdowns and, of course, quarterback takedowns, where Winnipeg’s dirty dozen is making a mockery of that Purolator sack race.
No less than 29 times the Bombers have introduced pivots to the turf, a dozen more times than the next team, B.C., and 20 more than the vaunted Argos.
The ridiculous thing is it doesn’t seem to matter who’s playing. Plug in Jason Vega, Kenny Mainor or Bryant Turner and you’ll get production. When down goes Doug Brown, Donnie-O steals the show.
With the secondary sticking to receivers like fly paper, it almost renders the linebackers an afterthought, but I wouldn’t want to say that to the face of Joe Lobendahn or Marcellus Bowman.
By now, regular readers of this space must be wondering if there’s a “but” coming.
And, of course, there is. Because I like to poke at things to see if they’re real, and this team’s 6-1 start provides the perfect opportunity.
Yes, the Bombers have orchestrated a remarkable turnaround from last season’s 4-14 mark. But if you zoom in, you’ll still find some flaws, and I’m not talking about the fact they’re still winless in games decided by four points or less.
For starters, their schedule was set up perfectly for a quick start, four of their first six at home, and only one of their first eight against a team that had a winning record last year.
Give them credit for taking advantage, but also keep in mind four of their six wins have come against teams (B.C. and Toronto) that are a combined 2-12.
Somehow, the schedule-maker kept the Bombers away from the Montreal Alouettes until mid-September. That’s reason alone not to anoint this team the Beast of the CFL East, yet.
Another is Winnipeg’s offence, so far the least productive in the loop at less than 330 yards per game, and that’s hard to fathom, having watched the disasters in Saskatchewan, B.C. and Toronto at various times.
Quarterback protection and running back production simply haven’t been good enough.
A team that passes the ball less than anybody shouldn’t be giving up one of the higher number of sacks (17), and Fred Reid shouldn’t be averaging a paltry 4.0 yards a carry, unless he’s in the NFL.
The good news is having the least productive offence in the league doesn’t doom a team to misery. After all, the Bombers won the 1988 Grey Cup with the CFL’s worst offence, and I’d rather have Buck Pierce at the controls than Sean Salisbury, any day.
This team reminds me a bit more of the 1990 Bombers, though, a team that didn’t light it up with the ball but was a holy terror without it, going 12-6, winning the East and destroying Edmonton in the Grey Cup.
One big difference, though.
Montreal wasn’t in the league.