July 15, 2016

Upon Further Review: WPG vs EDM

Kevin Fogg (23) and Khalil Bass (2) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers tackle Chris Tetzlaff (89) of the Edmonton Eskimos during the game at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, MB. Thursday, July 14, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

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Drew Willy fully understands how this works: When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are in a tailspin, his is always the first name that gets taken in vain.

Quarterback is the only position on the football field in which a win or a loss gets assigned, and the Bomber pivot – who heard references of ‘Willypeg’ when the club got off to a 5-1 start in 2014 – is hearing his name again, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

There were a lot of things that went wrong in Thursday’s 20-16 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos that dropped the Bombers to 1-3, including a gaudy number of penalties and some defensive breakdowns at critical junctures.

Drew Willy (5) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game against the Edmonton Eskimos at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, MB. Thursday, July 14, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

But after a solid first half in which the Bombers took at 13-10 lead into the intermission, Willy and the Bomber offence struggled in the second half, managing just two field goals. Willy finished the night 25 of 38 for 299 yards with one touchdown strike, to Rory Kohlert, and two interceptions, the second coming on the game’s final play which had the Bombers seeking some sort of last-second miracle.

“I don’t know if it’s doing too much. It’s just going through the reads properly… maybe… I’ve got to look at the film,” Willy said afterward. “Obviously the third quarter from myself was definitely not good enough.”

And when pressed as to if the Eskimos had made any defensive adjustments in the second half that posed problems, Willy wasn’t about to offer up any excuses.

“No. The first interception was just second and long and I shouldn’t have forced it in there, I should have just thrown the check-down,” he said. “I was just trying to make a play there and get some momentum going and (Eskimos linebacker J.C.) Sherritt dropped 15-20 yards back and I tried to force one in to Darvin (Adams).

“It’s not smart football. I just need to check it down there. And then I’m missing throws after that. I just need to regroup after that and make better throws.”

All that said, the Bombers O woes Thursday go deeper than the quarterback position.

“All the holding penalties, the lack of production on first down puts any quarterback in a bad spot.”

Coach O’Shea

Munch on these numbers:

The Bombers had 33 first down plays against the Eskimos and, factoring in penalties, sacks and losses, netted just 77 yards offence. Willy was 12 of 19 for 184 yards with a TD and an interception on first down, but the Bombers rushed nine times for only 27 yards, Willy was sacked once, and there were four penalties.

Bottom line: That put them – as they have been saying often through the first four games – ‘behind the sticks’. Case in point; of the 22 second-down plays the Bombers ran, a whopping 13 of them needed 10 or more yards to be converted and only four were second-and-five or less.

That’s a whole lot of math to say what Ryan Smith summed up afterward in just a few words.

“It’s the penalties, and you can’t win a lot of games when you are behind the sticks,” said the Bombers receiver. “And any time you’re second and long, there’s just a lot less available on your play-call sheet. We have to execute better on first down and stay out of second and long and first and long, also.”

More on the Bombers’ third loss in four games with our weekly post-game collection of notes, quotes and anecdotes we call ‘Upon Further Review’.

Kevin Fogg (23) and Khalil Bass (2) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers tackle Chris Tetzlaff (89) of the Edmonton Eskimos during the game at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, MB. Thursday, July 14, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

REMEMBER THE ADARIUS BOWMAN WHO played for the Bombers back in 2009-10 and had a penchant for not being able to squeeze the ball? Bowman had 925 yards in his first year as a Bomber, but in his second, well, here’s his Wikipedia page to explain things:

“In an issue he has had throughout his entire CFL career, Bowman continued to drop balls in the 2010 season, often contributing to losses in a difficult Blue Bombers’ season. After failing to rectify this problem, he was demoted from the starting line-up and eventually released on Oct. 20, 2010.”

That’s right, arguably the CFL’s deadliest deep threat – and one of the best at pulling down balls in traffic – was released by the Bombers six years ago. Bowman had 10 catches for 185 yards Thursday night, including six receptions that were first downs.

THE BOMBERS DEFENCE WAS HIT FOR 501 YARDS OF OFFENCE by the Eskimos attack, but two plays in particular were critical. The first was a 60-yard Mike-Reilly-to-Bowman pass that set up a field goal, and the second was Derel Chris Randle (8) and Julian Posey (29) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game against the Edmonton Eskimos at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, MB. Thursday, July 14, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)Walker’s 74-yard touchdown on the first play of the third quarter that gave Edmonton a lead they would not relinquish.

Defences call those big plays against ‘explosion plays’ and, obviously, they positively despise them.

“We want to hold them and force them into second and eight, second and five… but then we let the top off the defence and they get explosion plays, then holding them to the dink and dive game goes for naught,” said Bombers cornerback Chris Randle. “We did a good job of holding them to field goals on a couple of drives but, at the end of the day, if we don’t give up those plays we can flip the field for our offence.”

Added Jamaal Westerman:

“It’s about making enough plays to win a game. At times we were playing lights out and then at other times, from a defensive standpoint, we let a couple big plays pop loose. That’s the one thing that (defensive coordinator) Richie (Hall) always harps on, the explosion plays. It’s hard for a team to go 10 yards, 10 yards, 10 yards and march the ball down the field. It’s the big 30-40 yard plays that hurt you. I see some good things out there. We have to win the game. We have to win our one-on-one battles.”

ONE MORE FROM RANDLE when asked how the Bombers avoid entering the finger pointing stage and keep this from unraveling with the slow start to the season:

“It’s believing in one another,” he said. “And when we watch the tape, I know there’s going to be a lot of good things we can take from this game and there will be some things we want back. It was a 20-16 game and there were just one or two plays that can change the game. Coach preached that to us. We’ll go back to the drawing board and each player will work on fixing those one or two plays.”

WE KNOW IT’S EARLY, BUT Reilly has now thrown for 1,226 yards in three games. Even the mathematically challenged – and yes, I’m looking in the mirror – know that’s a ton. Reilly might not have the deadliest arm in the CFL, nor is he slippery when he gets outside the tackles and runs. But he is a winner, now 6-0 against Winnipeg, and has his troops following along in step.

John White (30) of the Edmonton Eskimos and Ian Wild (38) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, MB. Thursday, July 14, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)SPEAKING OF GAUDY NUMBERS Bombers linebacker Ian Wild picked up another seven tackles in Thursday’s loss and now has 29. He had 22 heading into this week’s play, which led the CFL.

BOMBERS CENTRE MATTHIAS GOOSSEN sat in his locker, staring ahead after Thursday’s setback, the frustration obvious in his face. His solution to getting this right was an interesting one.

“I’m just frustrated. Any loss is not good,” said Goossen. “It’s early in the season. But we’ve just got to get back to work. This league is a marathon, not a sprint, and every week you have to work at getting better.

“We didn’t do enough to win. We’ve got to get a ‘W’, I don’t care if it’s 1-0 or 55-54. We’ll get back in here and do the extra work because obviously what we’re doing hasn’t been enough to win.

“As an O-lineman, I try not to think too much out of my sphere. I just block the guy in front of me and when I do that, good things happen. I have to just concentrate on my job and that’s blocking the big 300-pounder in front of me.

“Just do your job.”