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August 5, 2019

“There’s lots of coulda-shoulda-wouldas.”

Winnipeg Blue Bombers #33 Andrew Harris

Paul LaPolice and Richie Hall both took their turns in front of the cameras and media on Tuesday, stepping up to offer their takes on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers offence and defence like defendants on trial.

They are the two frontmen for units being picked over more closely than forensic scientists at a crime scene after two straight losses, and especially following last Thursday’s 28-27 setback to the Toronto Argonauts. And so when LaPolice was asked to evaluate his own performance following Tuesday’s practice, he was succinct.

“Terrible. We lost,” he said. “I mean, when you lose a game I try to blame myself for everything that happens and I hope the players do the same.”

Later, Hall was asked about the work of the defence in the second of the loss to the Argos.

“You say second half, I just say for the last three quarters,” he began. “Inconsistent play. Too many mistakes, not enough plays and just uncharacteristic of us when you look at the overall year. We made too many mistakes and when you play like we did, you can’t expect to win.”

It’s been like that for the Bombers following their last two days on the practice field. Yes, a team that has religiously followed its mantra of flushing wins and losses has also taken turns falling on the proverbial sword in the wake of the loss to the Argos.

That goes even for Andrew Harris, who was brilliant with 15 carries for 152 yards and two touchdowns while leading the club with six catches for 45 yards. Yet…

“I look at my game, because that’s the only game I can control, and there are two plays I wish I could take back,” said Harris. “There’s one where we have a jet-sweep play and I have to make sure I secure the end and what happens is Shawn Lemon comes up field and stops Lucky in his tracks. We still get outside, but if I secure that end it’s a big play.

“And then, obviously, there’s the fumble (in the second quarter). Those are two plays, those are two plays I look back on and if I don’t fumble there that’s three points or if I just run to the right there was a big hole there and I could have scored.

“There’s lots of coulda-shoulda-wouldas. I look at my game personally and what I could have done and the rest of the guys, same thing, you look yourself in the mirror. It’s just those little details.”

Hall indicated Tuesday the Bombers defence was guilty of 43 mistakes and 16 missed tackles. Asked to expand further on the mistakes, Hall said:

“Mental errors. If we’re in the wrong gap, if we drop the coverage, if we didn’t do what we’re supposed to do. That’s one game and we usually don’t get those kind of mistakes over two games. We have to be more focused and more disciplined as far as executing our assignments.”

There’s also this, if Bomber Nation can take a step back for a big-picture look at the Bombers through their 5-2 start: Offensively, the club ranks second in points, first in touchdowns, first in passing touchdowns, second in rushing and second in passing efficiency. Defensively, the Bombers rank first in fewest points allowed, first in fewest touchdowns, first in rushing yards against, second in forced turnovers and first in opponent pass efficiency.

That is of small consolation now in the immediate aftermath of the loss to Toronto, previously winless and 1-15 in their last 16 before the win over Winnipeg.

“I’m a firm believer in not getting too high, in always being challenged and always playing with a chip on your shoulder,” said Harris. “From a team aspect, losing two games puts that chip on our shoulder a bit more as a team and makes us a little more hungry.”


OUCH REPORT:

The Bombers list of walking wounded includes WR Darvin Adams, DE Jackson Jeffcoat, DB Brandon Alexander, FB Mike Miller, OL Pat Neufeld, LS Chad Rempel, DB Marcus Rios, LB Jesse Briggs and WR Darvin Adams. DB Chris Humes, meanwhile, was back practising Tuesday in Alexander’s halfback spot.

Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said Adams was coming along and wouldn’t be ‘long term’, while Alexander will need a couple of weeks. The injury to Jeffcoat means more snaps for Canadian rookie Jonathan Kongbo along with regular ends Willie Jefferson and Craig Roh.

Newcomer Janarion Grant, meanwhile, was again handling a lot of the punt-return chores.

DOWNFIELD DEBATE:

A couple more from Bombers offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice…

First, here he is when asked about the fact the longest pass completion against the Argos going for just 24 yards.

“It always depends… certain situations you have opportunities to throw it deep, sometimes you will, sometimes you won’t. We had some deep things called where we’re not in the right spots and you can’t push the ball downfield with two people in the same spot as the DBs. We had a couple of them dialed up and on one of them the protection broke down. Part of the process is when you get those opportunities you can’t be in the wrong spot, you can’t drop the protection and then when you don’t have a lot of plays you’re going to be off the field.”

And on the suggestion the Bombers should have worked Andrew Harris more, given he had 15 carries for 152 yards, especially in the second half.

“I don’t think that’s right. Does anybody know how many plays we had? With 12:50 left in the game Andrew had three straight carries, two passes, we score. We only had four more plays after that drive. We had a two and out and then the next series Andrew got it on first down and then we were in second and long, So if we’re on the field, sure, Andrew’s going to touch the ball, but we only had four more plays.

“We’ve got to stay on the field offensively so we get more plays and then there’s more touches, but when you only have four more plays in the last 12 minutes… we’ve got to stay on the field and then everyone touches the ball.”