There’s no question the Winnipeg Blue Bombers could have won on Saturday in Toronto.
But there’s no way they should have won.
In the end, they didn’t — falling 29-28 to the Toronto Argos — and now find themselves in a situation where they are not guaranteed a home playoff game and have even more pressing concerns than that.
When the Edmonton Eskimos staged an incredible comeback to beat the B.C. Lions 35-29 in overtime late Saturday night, they improved to 10-6 and now sit just two points back of the Bombers in the race for second place in the West Division.
The 11-5 Bombers will still clinch second and secure a home playoff game with one win — either next Saturday at home against the Lions or on Nov. 3 in Calgary against the first-place Stampeders — but the truth is, right now, they look very beatable.
That certainly was not the case earlier in the season when quarterback Matt Nichols had the offence sizzling, the defence and special teams were holding their own in most games and all the key players were healthy.
Saturday’s loss to the Argos exposed all that has been wrong over the last four weeks for the Bombers — the defence is inconsistent and can be exploited, the offence is sputtering and kicker Justin Medlock has completely lost his touch.
The Bombers were beaten in every phase of the game, but still had a chance to win on a last-play Medlock field goal try. He missed, from 40 yards out, and it has become obvious his confidence is shaken. The confidence of the fans may be non-existent as Medlock scuffles along at a league-worst 76.7% conversion rate on field goal attempts.
He missed three straight field goals in Edmonton and sounded rattled when talking about it in the days after the game. This miss, his second of the game in Toronto, was much more costly.
“Just in a little drought, I guess, right now,” Medlock said. “Just got to make some kicks, just go one-for-one and keep it going. I thought I was going to make that last one. Going into it I felt pretty good. Just, yeah, just missed.”
The Bombers need Medlock to get his head straight because there will surely be more opportunities for big kicks down the stretch and in the playoffs.
And they’ve got plenty of other things to figure out.
On offence, they haven’t had a 300-yard passing game or a 100-yard rushing game in four weeks. Running back Andrew Harris has had his historic pace slowed in recent weeks and had just 36 combined yards on Saturday.
Quarterback Matt Nichols, who has been fighting through a finger injury, was steaming after Saturday’s loss, suggesting a lack of focus — at this critical juncture of the season — is part of the problem.
“In the last few games we’ve had a few instances where this has been reoccurring,” Harris said. “Myself, as a leader, we need to meet more, get together more and make sure we come together and fix these things up. We need to be better across the board to make sure these things don’t come up again.”
The Bombers defence has been hit hard by a couple of injuries — both defensive end Jamaal Westerman and strong side linebacker Moe Leggett are out for the season.
The defensive unit was a hot mess on Saturday, allowing 572 yards, including 423 through the air. While the defence has had some good performances — contributing heavily to recent wins over B.C. and Edmonton — inconsistency remains a significant problem.
Bombers coach Mike O’Shea steadfastly refused to make any moves to upgrade the defence. He’s going to stick with his guys and live or die with them.
While other teams — particularly the Saskatchewan Roughriders — made many personnel moves to boost their defence, the Bombers have simply tried to figure things out with the players they have.
NFL castoff Andy Mulumba could have helped, but the Bombers have so far been unable to sign their 2012 first round draft pick.
So, what you see is what you get with the Bombers going forward.
They are a good team and have proven it by winning 11 games.
But five weeks ago they looked like a strong Grey Cup contender and right now they don’t.
They are frustrated and they’re showing it.
Fortunately they have two games left in the regular season to get things straightened out.
Dressler strong in return from injury
One of the positives of the Blue Bombers 29-28 loss to the Toronto Argonaut on Saturday was the play of veteran receiver Weston Dressler.
He returned to the lineup after missing three games with an upper body injury and had a strong game, catching eight passes for 129 yards and a touchdown.
Dressler was easily the Bombers best offensive player.
“It was just nice to get back on the field, take a couple of hits and get back into football game-speed and everything like that,” Dressler said. “On a personal level I felt comfortable out there and everything will slow down a little bit more next week for me.”
Many of the Bombers were frustrated and disappointed at losing to the Argos and Dressler agreed with running back Andrew Harris and quarterback Matt Nichols that the team needs to elevate its game, its focus and its execution.
“Everyone is playing good football this time of year,” Dressler said. “You get things figured out. It’s one play here and there – and you don’t know when it’s going to be – that can decide a game so you’ve got to give everything you’ve got on every single play of the game.”
Published at Sun, 22 Oct 2017 14:47:01 -0400