Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke watches a drill during football practice on Thurs., Sept. 7, 2012. Burke was previously the team's defensive co-ordinator and the Bombers are last or near the bottom in almost every statistical category. (JASON HALSTEAD/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - For those of you who were holding your breath waiting for the Bomber offence to turn around, we will send flowers to your family.
For those of you who are hoping and wishing and praying that the Bomber defence gets its act together in time to save this season, you might want to cross a few more body parts.
Part of Sunday’s debacle at Mosaic Stadium were the 52 points the Saskatchewan Roughriders piled up on the Blue and Gold. Now, not all were on the defence’s shoulders, as the Bombers surrendered a blocked punt for a touchdown and coughed up a couple of kickoffs late that led to three points, but it was just the second time in the last nine seasons that the Bombers allowed more than 50 points.
“That’s probably the most embarrassing loss I’ve had in my life,” defensive end Alex Hall said. “That wasn’t a good feeling.”
Not even the worst defence in CFL history — the 2005 Bombers — gave up 50 points in a game. Yes, it’s that bleak for the Blue and Gold heading into Sunday’s rematch, the ninth annual Banjo Bowl, at Canad Inns Stadium.
The Bombers allowed the Roughriders to have a 100-yard rusher for the first time in 41 games, they still haven’t found a strong-side linebacker, they’re allowing the most passing yards, and their middle linebacker, Henoc Muamba, still has a ways to go in the learning department.
“Henoc is not there yet as far as where we need him to be,” head coach Tim Burke said. “He’s gotta do a little better job of reading his keys and reacting properly, but certainly athletically he’s good enough to be in there. He just has to mature as a player.”
The mess on defence is just another example of the mismanagement that has taken place with the Bomber roster. They cut Joe Lobendahn in the off-season because they had to start a Canadian at middle linebacker. Pierre-Luc Labbe was supposed to be the bridge from Lobendahn to Muamba, but he struggled. So in went Muamba. And now the head coach says he’s not playing up to snuff.
Adding insult to injury was the fact Lobendahn had four tackles for the Roughriders in Sunday’s win.
Move one spot over in the linebacking corps, and another roster error sticks out like a sore thumb. The Bombers cut Clint Kent in the off-season, saying the glut of talented defensive backs on the roster made it possible. As we mentioned earlier, no team is giving up more passing yards than the Blue and Gold.
Adding to the mess is the man with which they replaced Kent, Brandon Stewart, has been moved back to cornerback. We’ll let you guess as to why.
And now they’re moving the reigning CFL defensive player of the year, Jovon Johnson, from cornerback to strong-side linebacker, probably because the man who replaced an injured Stewart earlier in the season, Jonathan Hefney, doesn’t like playing there.
So just as they did at the centre position, the Bombers got rid of someone without knowing they had a decent replacement.
In other words, let the hoping and wishing and praying continue.