Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea during the CFL game against the Montreal Alouettes at Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal, QC, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (Photo: Johany Jutras)
It’s a commandment at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers clubhouse on 315 Chancellor Matheson Road: thou shall flush wins and losses within the span of one rotation of the earth.
Celebrate the wins, absolutely. Learn from the losses, most definitely. Then move on ASAP.
Still, some results – and always the defeats – tend to linger and can’t be easily flushed. And when a team is part of largest blown lead in franchise history – a franchise that has been in existence since 1930 – well, there is more than a little residue.
It was against that backdrop that the Bombers returned to work on Tuesday in preparation for Friday’s home date against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Let’s just say the last few days have seen enough soul-searching to keep a team of psychiatrists busy for the rest of the calendar year.
“I’ve been in the league 20 years,” said Bombers offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice. “There are tough losses… Yes, that was a tough loss.”
And asked if his thoughts had changed on the Montreal Meltdown after watching film, Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea was succinct:
“No, I still didn’t feel very good the next couple of days, still this morning. But we’ve got to move on from it. As difficult as it is, as I’m having trouble moving on from it, the players HAVE to because they’re the ones who have to play this next game and get it right.
“The good thing is, we had a good, commanding presence for three quarters. And then, we didn’t. It wasn’t a full game, it wasn’t one quarter of commanding presence and three bad. We’ve got to make sure we’re able to stay focused for a full game and correct the mistakes we made.
“It’s not just about letting it go. It’s about recognizing it, learning from it, applying the corrections on the field and moving on from the emotion, which I think they have done.”
The meltdown was across the board on Saturday, from offence to defence to special teams as the Als rallied from a 37-17 fourth-quarter deficit for the longest comeback in their franchise history.
All that led to the subdued group that practised on Tuesday, knowing they’ve got little time to fix a problem that has cost this team wins against Toronto – in which they blew a 20-point lead, tying what was then the club record – cost them a game in Regina on Labour Day and almost hurt them in a win over Edmonton.
“What could go wrong, went wrong,” said Bombers defensive coordinator Richie Hall. It seemed like they had the football gods on their side because what could go right, went right. But the thing is, you create your own opportunities, you create your own situation.
“If we take care of business like we did for the first 45 minutes it wouldn’t have happened, what happened in the fourth quarter.
“We dropped some balls. We missed some situations and in order for us to get where we want to be we can’t have those kinds of mistakes and we can’t have that kind of meltdown.”
“It isn’t one thing. When you give up 21 points in the fourth quarter it’s not just one thing,” added O’Shea. “What’s interesting is if we were able to do just one thing better out of the handful of things that happened… you give up 21 points in a quarter there are lots of things that are going on. When you look at the film, and they recognize it, too, when you lose by a point if you make one more play, if we make one more first down, if we make one more kick, if we make one more tackle, knock one more ball down – just one more play – you end up winning the game.
“That’s what makes it linger a little longer than it should.”
The Bombers still have their hand on the joystick here as they head into the final five games of their schedule. Friday’s game against Hamilton is followed by a visit to Saskatchewan – with the season series against the Roughriders tied 1-1 – a home date with the Als, followed by a home-and-home with the Stamps and the Bombers up 1-0 in that set.
“You’ve got to move on. It’s a quick turnaround and you have to have a thick skin in this business” said Bombers running back Andrew Harris. “You’ve got to take the lessons from that loss and just try and move forward.
“That was a tough one to be a part of, but the timing of it now… it’s not the best time to have it happen, but not the worst, either. We’ve still got five games left in the season and we can still build towards peaking at the right time and that’s at the end of the season. There’s definitely room for improvement all across the board and we’ve got to strive for that.”
With the Bombers returning to practice Tuesday after last Saturday’s loss in Montreal, here are some other items to help get you up to speed in this week’s NEED TO KNOW…
ADAMS JR. DINGED:
The CFL announced Monday night that Alouettes QB Vernon Adams Jr. – who played the lead role in Montreal’s comeback – has been suspended for one game for the incident that saw him pull Adam Bighill’s helmet off after an interception while pulling him to the ground and then swinging the helmet at the linebacker’s head.
Adams Jr. was penalized on the play, but the suspension comes after the league determined the act ‘to be reckless and dangerous.’ Adams Jr. will miss this week’s game in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions.
“He reached out and apologized to me on social media, which I respect, privately,” Bighill said Tuesday. “I think that was important. At the end of the day, emotions run high in this game and obviously he would take it back if he was in that moment again. To me it’s really water under the bridge and that’s really all it can be because there’s no reason being upset about it now. It is what it is.”
Bighill admitted there was frustration that Adams Jr. hadn’t been ejected from the game – the league conceded he should have been ejected to Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun – but insisted the incident is in the rearview mirror and he and the Bombers have to be fixated on this week’s game against the Ticats.
“I stood over there and looked right at the ref who looked right at the incident and saw it,” said Bighill. “Immediately I know that’s an ejectable offence… the fact that it isn’t taken care of right away is frustrating, right? But at the end of the day it is what it is and you can’t change things.
“He came back and played a great game. He earned that win. You’ve got to live with it. You can’t complain about those things.”
And as much as Bighill and the Bombers defenders are lamenting the plays they missed on the field, particularly in the fourth quarter, they are also tipping their hat to the Montreal QB.
“He was making some under pressure throws in some great spots against man coverage,” said Bighill. “You’ve got to give a quarterback props for doing that, standing in there and making tough throws and taking shots while doing it.
“We know we’d do some things differently coverage-wise if we were to do it again and fix a few things technique and assignment-wise, but at the end of the day you’ve just got to give a guy credit who can make those throws. He obviously did a great job.”
Bombers DE Jackson Jeffcoat has finished his stint on the six-game injured list and is cleared to return to action. Asked if he’ll suit up Friday, O’Shea said ‘We’ll see.’ Jeffcoat was working with the starting defence on Tuesday as Craig Roh was a spectator.
Also not practising on Tuesday were LB Thomas Miles, DB Brandon Alexander, LB Dale Warren, QB Matt Nichols, LB Jesse Briggs, KR Charles Nelson and RB Brady Oliveira.
Bombers RB Andrew Harris was named one of the CFL’s Top Performers for his work in the Week 15 loss to Als. Harris rushed 12 times for 76 yards and added five catches for 112 yards – the fifth time in his career he has eclipsed the century mark as a receiver in a game and second as a Bomber.
It was the third time Harris has been recognized this season, as he was also honoured for his work in Week 1 and Week 5.
The Bombers released RB Larry Rose III and DB Chris Humes on Tuesday and also added six players as part of the CFL’s practice roster expansion that allows teams to look at talent during a month-long window.
Coming aboard are:
- QB Trevor Knight (6-0, 188, New Hampshire) was a three-year starter at UNH and finished fifth in school history in career completions (590) and sixth in passing yards (6,345).
- DE Meffy Koloamatangi (6-5, 240, University of Hawai’i) played five games with the B.C. Lions this year, recording three special teams tackles. Koloamatangi was named to the 2017 Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Watch List prior to the start of that season. He finished the year with 31 tackles, six tackles-for-loss, and six quarterback hurries.
- WR Jawill Davis (6-1, 191, Bethune-Cookman) has NFL stints with the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers. Was first signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and played in seven games for New York that year, with four catches for 40 yards and 260 kick-return yards.
- DE David Kenney (6-2, 250, Illinois State) was released from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on August 30, 2019 after signing as a tryout player this past summer after being out of football since 2015. Kenney saw action in seven games in 2015 on the ISU roster and was credited with 11 tackles before being dismissed from the team.
- DB Trey Johnson (5-11, 170, Villanova University) signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers in April 2018, but spent the season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury and was waived from the IR list in January 2019. Johnson then spent time with the Denver Broncos in training camp before being released. Johnson played in all 13 games for Villanova in 2016, recording 33 tackles, seven pass breakups, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery.
- RB Jordan Robinson (5-11, 185, Sacramento State) played four seasons at Sacramento State and ended his collegiate career with the fourth-most career rushing yards (2,823) in school history. Robinson signed with the Edmonton Eskimos in 2018, rushing seven times for 23 yards and catching five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. Robinson also added 209 punt return yards and 539 kickoff return yards that year, and played in one game for the Eskimos this season, collecting 131 kickoff return yards and four punt return yards.