July 2, 2019

Notes & Quotes | July 2

They’ve been punched, and counter-punched. They’ve been pushed up against the ropes and came off swinging without going down.

And so, while the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive dozen has had some busts and miscues through their first two regular season games, the most important numbers are this: a 2-0 record out of the starting blocks for the first time since 2014 and just one touchdown yielded in eight games.

Just don’t label them ‘bend, but don’t break’, OK?

“I don’t think that’s anything that any defensive guy has ever said,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea after practice Tuesday. “I think that’s a media made-up term. Every defence wants to go out and smash somebody in the mouth right there and get them off the damn field. I’ve never, ever subscribed to that.

“It happens. There are times where you give up some yards and then when you don’t give up the touchdown that’s what you’re labelled as – bend, but don’t break. But when you give up the touchdown, I don’t know what you call it. You just didn’t play good defence.”

Bombers defensive coordinator Richie Hall, who would give his defence a ‘B’ grade through two games, concurred.

“You guys use the words ‘bend, but don’t break,’” Hall told a media scrum on Tuesday. “I don’t, because when I think of bend, but don’t break defences as that’s what your attitude is and that’s not what our attitude is. They made plays, we didn’t make any plays, therefore they got some yards.

“To me a bend, but don’t break defence is you just sit back and you just allow the team to kinda march downfield… that’s your mentality. And that’s not our mentality.”

Both Hall and Bombers offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice met with the media on Tuesday, and in effect, they have the same wishes for this week’s visit to Ottawa: to find more consistency in their units to stay off/on the field.

Edmonton ran 36 more plays than the Bombers did last week, and as a result, were on the field for almost 13 minutes more than Winnipeg.

“Certainly you want more plays and to stay on the field,” said LaPolice, who pointed at the club’s 35 percent second-down conversion rate in last week’s win as an area in need of improvement. “The more opportunities you get to stay on the field, the more opportunities you get to make. We had explosive plays and were able to score touchdowns, but you want to be on the field longer and then there’s more opportunities to make plays and keep them off the field.”

Yet, the bottom line here in all this is simple: the Bombers finished with four touchdowns to the Eskimos seven field goals. And 2-0 is still 2-0.

“Last week was pretty damn good, to hold Edmonton to seven field goals,” said O’Shea. “Down tight (in the Bombers zone) at least twice and holding them there … I think that’s pretty good. I haven’t looked at the overall stats and numbers or anything like that.

“We’ve won two games and they’ve been a big part of it.”

And when it was suggested that Hall might be harder on his defence than O’Shea is, the boss bristled.

“… It’s not that I’m not hard on them, I just don’t look at it as far as a comprehensive thing as to where we sit in terms of the league (rankings) or whatever,” said O’Shea. “Are they helping us win games? Absolutely.

“All three phases can play better and I think each guy and each phase is looking forward to that, where they do play better.”

FYI: LB Adam Bighill did not practice on Tuesday. O’Shea referred to it as a ‘vet’ day… DB/LB Anthony Gaitor was back at work after not participating on Canada Day. With Bighill watching, Kyrie Wilson moved into the middle with Jesse Briggs getting a lot of work at the weak-side spot.