In the big picture, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers clinched a playoff spot for the second straight year and moved to within one win of playing a home post-season game for the first time since 2011.
There’s a reason why the celebration was muted, however. Let’s just say, there wasn’t any baseball-style champagne flowing in the locker room.
“It’s great that we’re in the playoffs,” running back Andrew Harris said. “There’s lot of positives, but offensively we’ve got to be better.”
The Bombers offence, which led the league in net yards just three weeks ago, has sputtered since that time.
No one on the offensive side of the ball was happy with the result of Saturday’s 26-20 win over the B.C. Lions. Who would be after generating just 214 yards of offence and no touchdowns?
There were some valid reasons for the struggle.
Quarterback Matt Nichols was dealing with a torn nail on his ring finger and was wearing a modified glove on his throwing hand for the first time. And he was throwing to a mostly backup receiving corps, with veteran stars Weston Dressler and Darvin Adams injured.
But this wasn’t the first sign of trouble for the offence.
Nichols passed for just 238 yards in Edmonton on Oct. 1, combined with backup Dom Davis for 242 yards last week against Hamilton and managed just 172 yards through the air on Saturday.
“It’s never fun as an offence when you don’t get into the end zone,” Nichols said Saturday.
“It’s rare to win a football game and not feel that overjoyed excitement because as an offence our unit didn’t play well enough. I’m extremely proud of the rest of the team and appreciate those guys for having our backs. I look forward to being better next week.”
Those aforementioned numbers are not the kind that are going to put fear into opposing defences.
Running back Andrew Harris has been limited as well the last two weeks. His chase of the historic 1K-1K mark in rushing and receiving has been slowed by getting just 78 rushing yards and 95 receiving yards combined in two games.
He’s on pace for 1,045 rushing yards and 979 receiving yards after 15 games.
An outstanding performance on defence and special teams — punt returner Kevin Fogg and defensive back T.J. Heath both had touchdowns — carried the Bombers to the win over the Lions on Saturday.
It begs the question: Have opponents figured the Bombers’ defence out?
The numbers say yes, yet the Bombers are 2-1 over the last three weeks despite not getting optimum performances from the offence.
That’s the good news.
So is the fact that the Bombers are 6-2 at home this season, which bodes well for likely playing the Western semifinal at Investors Group Field on Nov. 12.
Those positives have to be tempered by the surprising struggle of co-ordinator Paul LaPolice’s offence and the sudden rash of injuries to key players.
We have no definitive information to go on, but it certainly looked like Adams (arm) and star dime back Moe Leggett (right leg, possibly Achilles) could be out for at least the rest of the regular season.
Star defensive end Jamaal Westerman is already out with a reported torn triceps muscle and receivers Weston Dressler and Timothy Flanders are both on the six-game injured list.
Those are all impact players and the Bombers claim that everyone on the roster is a starter will soon be put to the test.
“I’ve always believed in our depth,” Bombers coach Mike O’Shea said. “We’ve won a bunch of games with guys jumping in and doing good things out there on the field.
“I believe our guys are able to do that because they are coached well, they pay attention, they know their role when they’re backing somebody up but they believe they’re starters. When they go in I believe that they really feel they want to do something for the guys they are stepping in for.”
The 11-4 Bombers can clinch home-field for the semifinal as soon as Saturday in Toronto against the 7-9 Argos, who are battling for first place in the East.
A strong offensive performance will be more worthy of celebration.
ADAMS, LEGETT TOUGH TO REPLACE
It’s likely to be a different looking lineup for the Blue Bombers when they take on the Toronto Argonauts next Saturday.
Injuries to potential all-star players Darvin Adams and Moe Leggett will force significant changes.
Adams suffered an arm injury early in Saturday’s win over the B.C. Lions and did not return, while Leggett was carried off the field late in the fourth quarter with a right leg injury that looked serious.
Replacing them will not be easy.
The Bombers could get slotback Weston Dressler back from an upper-body injury, which would give them a big boost. They could also activate former NFL player Chris Givens, who has 60 games of experience and 107 catches south of the border, to replace Adams at wide receiver.
Cornerback Brandon Alexander has played in Leggett’s dime back position at times this season, as has halfback Kevin Fogg. However, Fogg was already in the lineup Saturday, replacing the injured Brian Walker at field half.
If Walker misses playing time again and Alexander or Fogg has to move to dime back, the Bombers could play Robert Porter at field corner. They also have Darnell Walker, Jr., available on the practice roster.
Published at Sun, 15 Oct 2017 13:21:55 -0400