EDMONTON — The mood was anything but jovial outside the locker room as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers fell to 0-3 on the CFL season.
The latest defeat was a resounding 42-10 blowout at the hands of the Edmonton Eskimos, who were held to a woeful one point just one week ago against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“I don’t know if there’s much to say at this point, everybody has just got to start looking in the mirror and having the attitude we need to start playing with,” said Blue Bombers defensive back Jovon Johnson. “Right now, we’re not playing with no attitude, no enthusiasm. We’re just out there and it’s not good right now.
“It starts within you, intrinsic motivation. You’ve got to start pumping yourself up, getting yourself ready to go. You shouldn’t have to have a coach start screaming and yelling at you to start playing football. It’s what we love to do. It’s why we play the game. We’ve got to start getting ourselves ready to go.”
The score was bad enough, but the Blue Bombers also lost the top two quarterbacks on their depth chart, with Buck Pierce leaving the game late in the first quarter and Alex Brink knocked out with a head injury (possible concussion) in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
There was no official update on Pierce, but we saw him leave the locker room with a walking boot on his left foot and he required the use of a crutch to assist with his walking to the bus. That can’t be good news.
As for Brink, Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice confirmed it was a head injury and noted that the backup QB will be re-evaluated after the team returns home on Saturday.
However, with their next game on Wednesday, the smart money is on Joey Elliott at the controls against the Toronto Argonauts.
If that’s the case, Elliott (who finished 11-of-18 for 193 yards with one TD and one INT in his quarter of work) was quick to say he’ll be ready.
As for the game that was just completed, turnovers proved to be disastrous for the Blue Bombers, who coughed up the ball four times in the first half and two more times in the second for a grand total of six.
You’re not going to win many games with seven turnovers — the scary thing is that the Blue Bombers created five of their own (though most came with game already out of reach).
“I feel like we kind of gave them 24 points in the first half — a blown coverage, an interception for a touchdown, a fumbled punt for a touchdown. You can’t have plays like that in this league,” said Johnson, referring to the 35-0 deficit the Blue Bombers faced after 30 minutes. “Everybody is good enough to beat anybody on any given day, so we’ve got to limit our mistakes. That just comes with everybody being focused and being ready to play. We need to start going back to the drawing board and doing a better job with that.
“I’m not frustrated. It’s football. It’s part of the game and it’s the way the game goes. We just keep playing.”
Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice said the first turnover, the one that saw returner Demond Washington stripped by Lee Robinson and brought into the end zone by Clint Kent (29 yard recovery by the former Bomber) essentially took the wind out of his team’s sails.
“We had an early turnover and it really deflated us,” said LaPolice. “We have to be able to play through those things. We all have to be accountable and look in the mirror and it starts with me.
“We have to do a better job coaching, a better job playing, a better job learning, but that’s unacceptable, what happened today.”
Plenty of the points surrendered were a result of the aforementioned turnovers, but the Blue Bombers have now given up 116 points in three games while scoring only 56.
There were two bright spots for the Blue Bombers on this evening:
WR Chris Matthews had another monster outing, finishing with seven catches for 171 yards and a 72-yard TD strike from Elliott on his first snap. Again, the stats were padded in garbage time, but the rookie is showing an ability to make plays. No doubt about it.
Matthews might be the only one not impressed with Matthews right now.
“I just made a play. That’s what I’m here for. They pay me to make these plays,” said Matthews, who now has 20 catches for 350 yards and two touchdowns to lead the club in all three categories. “That’s what I’ve got to do. It’s nothing really special to me. That’s just how I feel right now.”
DT Bryant Turner had three tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. He’s had all five sacks for the Blue Bombers through three games. Impressive stuff, though he was taking little consolation in those stats afterward.
A couple other notes:
* It looked like Blue Bombers punter Mike Renaud hurt his left ankle during a return in the first half, but LaPolice said he thought he would be okay.
* Blue Bombers tackle Glenn January was ejected in the fourth quarter, along with Eskimos D-linemen Marcus Howard and Julius Williams after a melee ensued.
January thought the Eskimos were trying to take liberties with guard Chris Greaves. His recollection of the incident was a bit foggy and he said he’d have to review the tape.
“It’s just one of those situations that happen from time to time,” said January. “I felt like they were taking a shot at my young guard (Greaves) and I’m not going to stand back and let that happen. I’m not really sure what I did to get ejected.
“This is a night that’s frustrating for everybody and we’ve got to control our emotions out there.”
The Blue Bombers actually were supposed to have a second player tossed, but the officials (who tossed six flags on the play in question) misidentified the player as #67 Chris Kowalczuk (who was one of the healthy scratches) and even after a second conference, the officials decided to not eject a second Bomber. Very odd stuff.