The Winnipeg Blue Bombers got to enjoy a football-free weekend after going in for film study on Friday.
With that in mind, here are a few observations on what we feel the Blue Bombers will need to work on this week as they get set to face the B.C. Lions on Friday night at Canad Inns Stadium to close out a four-game homestand (in on particular order):
a) Starting stronger — This has been an issue in each of the seven games so far and if it’s an issue again on Friday, the defending Grey Cup champions might pull away and never look back. We witnessed their high-powered attack in Week 1 at B.C. Place and their defence is among the league leaders in almost every category. Plus they feature one of the most consistent kickers in the game in Paul McCallum. The Blue Bombers have been outscored 54-8 in the first quarter this season and that simply won’t cut it going forward. The Ticats failed to put the Blue Bombers away during the opening half and that inability came back to bite them in the end. That might not have been possible were it not for the play of Alex Hall, who prevented Henry Burris from scoring a touchdown late in the first quarter that would have put the Ticats up 14-1. Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice called it one of the turning points in the football game, since the Blue and Gold came right back and put up a field goal to narrow the gap.
b) Preventing the big play — Although we wrote that the Blue Bombers’ defence took a big step forward on Thursday, the fact they’ve been so susceptible to surrendering the big play remains an area that must be cleaned up immediately. Make no mistake, playmakers on other teams are going to come up with big plays at times. But after a team works hard to battle back from an early deficit and takes their first lead of the football game, giving up an 84-yard catch-and-run to the most dangerous man on the field (Chris Williams) is unacceptable. The Lions have plenty of weapons in their offensive arsenal and Travis Lulay is the type of QB that can feast on the big play. Blue Bombers DE Alex Hall has been improving dramatically and has been a force to be reckoned with on the pass rush. The front-four needs to get pressure to limit the time Lulay has to make decisions.
c) Keep the offence moving forward — The play of QB Joey Elliott was rock-solid in his first start of the season and now it’s time for him to show he can follow it up with another. Elliott set the bar high by throwing for 406 yards through the air and it’s going to be tough for him to duplicate those numbers against the defending champs. However, if he can continue to limit the turnovers, that would be a big step forward. The Blue Bombers need to find a way to get second-year WR Kito Poblah more involved and this might be the week to do it. Perhaps lost in the shuffle in the Elliott-mania was the fact that Blue Bombers OC Gary Crowton came up with one of his best game plans of the season. Elliott and company had to execute that game plan but Crowton deserves some props as well. Having said that, much like Elliott, Crowton faces a challenge himself in trying to follow up that plan with another good one against the Lions.