Plenty of blame to go around in Bombers loss


Plenty of blame to go around in Bombers loss

TORONTO — Kicker Justin Medlock was blaming himself, quarterback Matt Nichols was seething and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were talking like a team that needs a re-boot.

Or maybe a good, swift kick.

The Bombers lost 29-28 to the Toronto Argos Saturday afternoon at BMO Field, getting a rough performance from their defence and a critical miss from the once-automatic Medlock.

They had the win in their sights as they drove the ball to the Argos 33-yard-line with just a few seconds left on the clock, but Medlock’s 40-yard field goal attempt was wide right.

“It was my fault,” Medlock said.

“I didn’t come through for the team. It’s definitely shocking.”

Medlock’s teammates disagreed with him. They said there was plenty of blame to go around and they were right.

“It ain’t his fault,” defensive back T.J. Heath said. “He ain’t the only one on the field that’s playing. As a competitor I’m sure that’s how he’s thinking but all of us should feel like it’s our fault.

“Everybody has to put this loss on their back and that’s how we’re going to get better.”

The Bombers were beaten in every phase of the game and were lucky to be so close.

The Argos put up 572 yards of offence — 423 through the air — and the Bombers managed just 303 yards themselves. They took penalties that extended drives, missed tackles and assignments and just looked generally out of sorts.

That’s a big concern, as they have looked that way for four straight weeks.

They are 2-2 in those games and 11-5 overall, but they are not playing anything like a team that is going to do some damage in the playoffs right now.

“I’m pretty frustrated with our offence,” Nichols said. “Our last play of the game, before the field goal, we were misaligned. Pretty simple things that we’ve done every week for the last couple of years. We messed it up. On a play that if we could have got five or six more yards, it probably makes a difference for the kick going in.

“It’s tiny details that lose games against good teams this time of year. You can’t do it.”

Nichols continued when asked if the Bombers have suffered a lack of focus in recent weeks.

“Yeah, I guess so. I don’t know what it is but we are going to be having extra meetings. We’re going to be doing extra stuff this week that guys better get ready to learn and be in the right places. If they’re not, we’ll find ways to handle it.

“We better figure it out.”

The Bombers still had a chance to catch Calgary for first place in the West Division heading into the game but that is now out the window. Depending on the result of Saturday’s late game between the 9-6 Edmonton Eskimos and 6-9 B.C. Lions, the Bombers could still need one more win — next Saturday at home against B.C., or in Calgary on Nov. 4 — to wrap up a home playoff game.

They have not put together a three-phase win since they beat Ottawa at home on Sept. 22. They have not put together a 300-yard passing game since that time.

Running back Andrew Harris has been limited lately and had his worst production of the season on Saturday. He had just 32 rushing yards and caught two passes for just four yards.

“We didn’t play a clean enough game in the second half,” Bombers coach Mike O’Shea said. “We took a few penalties, we didn’t get off the field and we didn’t stay on the field. It should have been a much cleaner last 30 minutes than it was.”

It was an historic night for Argos quarterback Ricky Ray, who moved past 60,000 yards passing in his career, just the fourth CFL player to do so. He also went over 5,000 yards in a season for the fourth time in his career.

He led long drives, hit Declan Cross with a touchdown pass and set the table for running back James Wilder Jr., to score two touchdowns along the ground. Backup quarterback Cody Fajardo had the other Toronto touchdown.

Wilder had a huge night, rushing for 112 yards and catching seven passes for 85 yards.

“They took what was given every single time,” Bombers defensive back Chris Randle said. “They hit us in the right spots. Yards after the catch was a huge thing for them. I think we could have done way better at gang tackling. “

The Bombers gave themselves a chance to win late by stuffing Fajardo on a one-yard two-point convert attempt with 1:57 left in the game. They drove the ball downfield with authority to set up Medlock’s attempt for the win, but the struggling kicker couldn’t get the job done.

Medlock, who gets paid upwards of $180,000 a year because he is so clutch, has simply not been this year. He is kicking field goals at a league-worst 76.7%.

The Bombers say they still believe in him but his play of late has to be significant concern.

“The last kick of the game with no time on the clock is something that everybody focuses on but they don’t see the penalties that keep drives alive, they don’t see missed tackles, they don’t see dropped balls,” O’Shea said. “We do. We see all that and we’ll never put it on the last kick.”

On the bright side, the Bombers got two touchdowns from backup quarterback Dan LeFevour and another from receiver Weston Dressler, who returned from injury to catch eight balls for 129 yards.

They also came very close to winning despite not being at their best and getting outplayed across the board.

“We don’t have to scrap the whole playbook or what we’ve done to this point,” Randle said. “We’re still 11-5 and I think we have a lot to build on from this game.”

Twyman@postmedia.com

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Okpalaugo shocked that Wilder caught him

TORONTO — Tristan Okpalaugo thought he was home free.

The Blue Bombers defensive end made a great play to intercept a pass from Argos quarterback Ricky Ray at his own 11 yard line and came oh-so-close to scoring a touchdown.

He took the ball back 98 yards before Argos running back James Wilder Jr., caught him from behind at the Toronto one-yard-line. Bombers third string quarterback Dan LeFevour took it in for a touchdown from there, but Okpalaugo clearly wanted that one for himself.

“It was one of those things where I saw the ball, caught the ball and took off,” Okpalaugo said. “I used to play tight end in high school but it was the first time running like that. It was a long series and I tried to make it but I got a little tired I guess and credit to Wilder for catching me on the one, which is sad.

“I was surprised he did that. I thought I was in there, home free. I didn’t want to look at the Jumbotron because I knew I’d slack off if I didn’t see anybody. I peeked and thought I was free and I don’t know where he came from and jumped on my back.”

Okpalaugo wasn’t feeling much like celebrating his big play anyway, after the Bombers lost 29-28, a score that flattered the visitors.

“They just came and punched us in the mouth basically,” Okpalaugo said.

“We didn’t play our best defensive game. We struggled in a lot of ways.”

ARGOS 29, BOMBERS 28

Bombers 7 7 11 3

Argos 14 0 6 9

TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER

Argos quarterback Ricky Ray threw for 423 yards and a touchdown. In doing so he surpassed 5,000 passing yards in a season for the fourth time in his career and first since 2008 and went over 60,000 yards for his career.

TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER

Bombers defensive end Tristan Okpalaugo picked off a Ray pass and returned it 98 yards before getting caught from behind by Argos running back James Wilder, Jr., at the one-yard line. He also had a pass knockdown and three tackles.

TOP SPECIAL TEAMER

Bombers newcomer Chris Givens showed well in his first CFL game, racking up 110 yards on five kickoff returns. He also caught four passes for 41 yards.

KEY PLAY

The Bombers had a chance to win, despite giving up almost 600 yards on defence. Matt Nichols engineered a late drive that gave Justin Medlock a chance to kick a 40-yard field goal for the win with no time left on the clock. He was wide right and the Argos kicked the ball out of the end zone to preserve the one-point win. 

Published at Sun, 22 Oct 2017 13:18:43 -0400