WINNIPEG - Buck Pierce’s leg is banged up again, so it appears Alex Brink will be the man in charge of winning the most critical game of the Bomber season to date.
Head coach Paul LaPolice reported Saturday that Pierce is unlikely to play next weekend when the Bombers visit the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium, a place where Winnipeg hasn’t won since Oct. 18, 2002.
Pierce appeared to injure his right knee in Friday’s 27-22 loss to the Toronto Argonauts. He went to the doctor on Saturday morning, and the severity of the problem will likely be known Sunday.
“I don’t think it’s a major injury, put it that way,” LaPolice said.
Brink, who would be making his third career start if he gets the call on Saturday, would need to snap the McMahon slide for the Bombers to have a legitimate shot at finishing first in the East Division.
The Bombers (10-7) lost control of the East with Friday’s loss. They need to win their regular-season finale and have Montreal (10-6) lose one of its two remaining games, the first of which is Sunday against Calgary. Its other game is in B.C. next Saturday night.
If the Bombers don’t beat Calgary they would need the Alouettes to lose both of their games if they’re going to host the East final on Nov. 20. If the Bombers end up in second, they would host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the East semifinal on Nov. 13.
The question now is how much of a dropoff is there from Pierce to Brink in an offence that has failed to take off in 2011? Right now, it doesn’t appear to be a big one.
Brink generated more yardage and more points in his time at the helm on Friday night, and Pierce’s numbers this season haven’t been anything to write home about. In addition, Brink looks 10 times better now than he did last year in his one and only start.
“Unbelievably more comfortable,” Brink said after Friday’s loss. “I’ve taken kind of the down times I’ve had and I’ve worked through them, and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve been lucky to be in this offence for a couple years and see a lot of things.
“Having Buck as a guy that I can look up to is great for me, and the coaches give me a lot of support. I feel real comfortable when I’m out there.”
On the other hand, Pierce brings a veteran presence that is so valuable this time of year. Pierce is 9-3 this season as the quarterback of record, while Brink is 1-2 after failing to complete the comeback against the Argos.
The good news for Brink is he has the hottest running back in the league, Chris Garrett, at his disposal and a defence that is smothering. It’s almost to the point where the Bomber quarterback just has to manage the game and the team will have a chance.
“We gotta finish strong,” Brink said. “We gotta give ourselves an opportunity next week to get first place, and that obviously depends on what Montreal does.
“At the same time we’re focused on where we’re at. So we’re going to get ready to go, and we’re going to go beat Calgary next week.”