July 3, 2016

Upon Further Review: WPG at CGY

Drew Willy (5) and Matt Nichols (15) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game at McMahon stadium in Calgary, AB. Friday, July 1, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

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They need answers, and they need them ASAP. And sometimes those solutions can be staring a team right in their collective mugs.

Still reeling from their 36-22 loss to the Calgary Stampeders on Friday night, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers returned home a day later trying to find something – anything – salvageable from their second straight setback to open the 2016 Canadian Football League season.

Head coach Mike O’Shea made it very clear in his post-game comments he wasn’t happy with the second and third quarters and, in particular, the sloppy tackling by the defensive dozen. The offensive woes continued as well, but there were some indications late in the loss that something good could come from the wreckage of another Cowtown beat down.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea during the game against the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon stadium in Calgary, AB. Friday, July 1, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

Working against a Stampeders defence that was occasionally backing off to prevent the big play, Drew Willy nonetheless completed 21 of 26 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns in the final 11 minutes and 54 seconds of the game.

Yes, yes, yes, the other 48 minutes weren’t very good, but for an attack that is trying to find its mojo, that’s a silver lining that the offence will cling to tightly.

And much of that production came with the club using an up-tempo tactic, which might be something that could help get the offence out of its early-game funk.

“You see a lot of teams around the league doing it,” said Willy. “Coach Maas (the former Ottawa offensive coordinator-turned Edmonton Eskimos boss) has really brought it out around the league. There’s a lot of teams doing it… it just depends on what kind of team you are.

“We need to find our identity as an offence and go from there. I’m sure Coach LaPo will be looking at the film and deciding what’s best for our offence.”

Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice during the game against the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon stadium in Calgary, AB. Friday, July 1, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

What happened late in the blowout in Calgary looked very similar to the script a week earlier in the loss to Montreal. Unofficially, the Bombers had 257 offensive yards in the fourth quarter Friday – this after crawling to just 153 through the first 45 minutes.

And against the Als, Winnipeg had just 77 yards in the first half, but cranked out 305 yards and 14 first downs in the second half.

“(The up-tempo attack) is something that has possibly limiting consequences for the defence,” said O’Shea. “They’re possibly not going to substitute the way they want to, so you can get a few extra plays that you like the match-ups in because of the lack of substitution.

“Drew seems to get into a rhythm that way and we obviously have to investigate putting ourselves more in that situation throughout the game.”

There’s little time to get all this right, for the Bombers are on the road again this Thursday in Hamilton to face the Tiger-Cats.



Here are some other notes, quotes and anecdotes for the latest installment of ‘Upon Further Review’:

THE BOMBERS ACTUALLY STARTED… the game on a bit of a roll, moving the ball 39 yards on seven plays to the Calgary 45 yard line on the very first series when the decision was made to call a fake field goal on third and 10.

Matt Nichols did connect with Tony Burnett, but only for three yards. And just like that, a potentially promising start – the 52 yards are certainly in Justin Medlock’s range as he was bombing kicks from that distance in the pre-game – was snuffed out quickly.

“They continually showed us something that we thought we could have,” said O’Shea of the fake. “And they did it again, but our guy got held up.”

THE OTHER CALL THAT GETS MAGNIFIED… in the loss was the poor time clock management at the end of the first half. Trailing 20-7, Winnipeg got the ball back on their own 35-yard line with 42 seconds remaining and marched 42 yards to the Calgary 33-yard line with 12 ticks left on the clock.

Andrew Harris (33) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game at McMahon stadium in Calgary, AB. Friday, July 1, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)But there was confusion amongst the Bombers, who thought Andrew Harris had gone out of bounds after pulling in a 15-yard pass, but was instead ruled down in the field of play.

Scrambling to get the play off, Willy then hit Harris again for a one yarder, but before he could get down, time had expired.

Again, another opportunity to use Medlock to put some points on the board was lost.

“We thought Andrew got out of bounds there,” Willy explained. “Obviously he didn’t. I was trying to get it to him as my closest receiver and then hopefully he would get down with one second. We weren’t able to do that and get momentum there and make it 20-10 at halftime. Teams always try to get momentum before the half and we weren’t able to do that.”

Added O’Shea:

“We’ve got 12 seconds left and it’s enough for at least a play and a field goal. It just so happened the play broke down, we ended up dumping it off and we lose track of time, probably thinking about trying to get out of bounds instead of getting down.

“We’ve run three plays in 12 seconds in practice.”

THE BOMBER DRESSING ROOM WAS… obviously morgue-like after the loss, and there was obvious disappointment-meets-anger in the tone of many of the players interviewed.

Among them was right tackle Pat Neufeld:

“We’ve just got to be better in the second and third quarters,” he said. “That’s not even close to being good enough. It was just a brutal display of football and it’s something we can’t let happen again. The way we played in the fourth quarter is the way we’ve got to play the whole game.

“We know we can play that way because we showed it the whole fourth quarter against a really good team. But it’s got to start from play one of the first quarter.”

AS MUCH AS THE OFFENCE IS UNDER THE MICROSCOPE… the defence is hardly blameless in the defeat. The during the game at McMahon stadium in Calgary, AB. Friday, July 1, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)Stamps racked up 516 yards net offence, including 137 along the ground by Bomber-killer Jerome Messam. In his last four games against the Bombers dating back to last year, Messam has carried 46 times for 326 yards – a 7.1-yard average.

“It’s just shooting ourselves in the foot,” said linebacker Khalil Bass. “We’d have situations where it was second and long and we’d let them out of it and then situations on offence we’re driving and for some reason it fizzles out.

“We’ve just got to figure out who really wants it and who doesn’t. And we need to ride with the ones who do want it and go from there. We’ve got to be on the same page and of the same mindset. That’s the only way to get this done.”

FINALLY, FOR ALL THE DOOM AND GLOOM… there were some notable developments for the Bombers. Trent Corney picked up his first career sack before leaving with an injury, Jace Davis had his first touchdown while Thomas Mayo, filling in for the injured Weston Dressler, played in his first-ever CFL game and finished with five receptions for 78 yards.

The game was particularly significant for Mayo, as injuries and waiting for an opportunity has kept him off the field for a long spell.

“It felt great. It’s been a long time. My confidence was great,” said Mayo. “Obviously it would have been better with a win, but for me personally, it was all good. I had a couple miscues, which is part of the game. But as far as catching the ball, it felt great.

“It was a blessing, man. To be out there playing and being on TV back home with my family watching… it wasn’t the result we wanted but for me I thought I did well in my first game back.”