WINNIPEG - The quarterback wasn’t the only member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers that produced a special performance last week.
A defensive unit that was in search of its swagger came up with one of its best performances this season as the Blue Bombers earned a 32-25 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to improve to 2-5.
It wasn’t an outing without flaws, but it’s one the Blue Bombers believe they can build on.
“We made plays,” said Blue Bombers defensive back Jovon Johnson. “We still gave up some, myself included and I’m very upset about that. But we’re getting to where we want to be. It all starts with us doing it at practice, not joking around and taking this more seriously. Guys are buying into what we’re doing and we're getting better.”
The big play in question saw the Ticats tie the game 25-25 late in the fourth quarter when Henry Burris found speedster Chris Williams for an 84-yard touchdown strike.
“(Williams) came off slow, and I relaxed on the play,” said Johnson. “I was looking in the backfield at the same time, and saw the quarterback step up. I thought he was going to get sacked, and I kind of just relaxed on the play. And he took off.
“I’ve got to be there to make that play.”
Williams also had a 37-yard touchdown on the Ticats’ opening drive, but other than that, the Blue Bombers were a pretty stout group on defence, forcing Burris to lose three fumbles and causing Hamilton to twice turn the ball over on downs.
During his meeting with the media on Saturday, Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice was generally pleased with the way the defence played but acknowledged his concern for giving up another big play.
On the flip side, the Blue Bombers were excellent against the run, limiting Chevon Walker to 17 yards on seven carries before he was injured and just 71 yards overall.
The hustle Alex Hall showed to force Burris to fumble at the one-yard line to prevent a sure touchdown may have actually been the turning point in the contest.
“We talked as a defence this week about collectively getting more takeaways,” said LaPolice. “We win when we win the turnover margin. We were plus-six in this game and that allows us to go from minus-8 to minus-2. That’s a huge jump in one week and now we have to keep doing it.”
In all, the defence created five of the six turnovers in the game (Henoc Muamba forced the other fumble on special teams, stripping the ball out of the hands of Williams after a 41-yard gain).
You might say the Blue Bombers sent a statement to the rest of the CFL.
“You could say that, you could definitely say that,” said Muamba, who forced two fumbles and made three tackles in his first start at middle linebacker. “We had a lot of confidence on defence and we know that we’re better than our record shows.”
Linebacker Jonathan Hefney still sees room for growth.
“We’re not that close, yet. Not yet,” said Hefney. “We gave up a couple plays. But we hung in there. We hung in there, we gave our offence a chance.
“It’s one game. It’s a start. We're just going to go into next week with the same confidence and the same determination that we had this week. It don’t take no weight off our shoulders. We only won two games. We're 2-5. We’ll just take it one step at a time.”
The Blue Bombers close out a four-game homestand on Friday night at Canad Inns Stadium against the B.C. Lions.
— with files from Paul Friesen