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55 Yard Line

Bombers’ offence comes up short yet again as they slip to 1-5 with loss to Montreal

Alex Brink, shown being sacked by Montreal's John Bowman, and his team struggled Friday.Scores can be deceptive at times, and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' 36-26 loss to Montreal Friday certainly is evidence of that. If you only saw that scoreline, you'd think that the Bombers were okay and that they performed acceptably on offence, well ahead of the 20.2 points they'd averaged to this point at least. That's not the case, though. This game was a scathing indictment of the Winnipeg offence, which couldn't move the ball through the air all night, mysteriously elected to abandon the ground game after they got it working, and trailed 29-10 at the three-minute warning. Two garbage-time touchdowns (sandwiched around a defensive failure that gave Montreal seven points of their own) shouldn't change that, and those late touchdowns shouldn't distract from the serious questions that have to be asked about the Bombers.

As with most CFL offences, the story starts under centre. Alex Brink got the start again Friday despite a less-than-ideal 294-yard, two-interception showing last week against Edmonton, likely because the Bombers snuck out of that one with a less-than-convincing win. If you only look at his overall stats, Brink was fine; he completed 25 of 39 passes (64 per cent) for 311 yards and two touchdowns. However, both of those touchdowns came in the final three minutes, and they came at least partly thanks to defensive failures from the Alouettes (who seemed to let up on the final drive in particular, logical considering that the game was well in hand by that point). Brink particularly struggled early on, completing just seven of 16 passes (43.8 per cent) for 66 yards in the first half. He showed he's tough (perhaps even foolhardily so), taking a ridiculous hit to the head from Rod Davis and heading back out there on the next series without even talking to trainers, and his play late in the game was promising, but this game as a whole is anything but a complete endorsement of his abilities.

It's not all about Brink, though, as there were problems elsewhere as well. The Bombers' offensive line continued to struggle in the passing game, and many receivers were unable to establish separation. One bright spot came from running back Chad Simpson, who picked up 65 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries (9.3 yards per carry) and added 40 yards on three catches, but he inexplicably wasn't featured much. The ground game was the only thing working before the half (57 of Simpson's rushing yards came then on just five carries), but offensive coordinator Gary Crowton bizarrely decided to go away from it, only giving Simpson two touches down the stretch and pulling him from the game completely partway through the fourth quarter. TSN's Shawn Churchill reported that Simpson wasn't injured, so it's hard to figure out why he was pulled; there was speculation it was over his failure to block Davis on the hit on Brink, but still, Simpson was generally the most productive person in this offence Friday night. Pulling him is a curious move, and it combined with the team's offensive struggles to date means questions have to be asked of Crowton, a CFL rookie who was an unusual choice for the offensive coordinator job.

The defence had issues too, certainly. As Doug Brown and Chris Schultz pointed out on the TSN halftime show, Montreal's offence continually suckered Bombers' rookie defensive end Alex Hall by getting him to bite on play-fakes and crash down too far, and the rest of the defensive line wasn't much better. They clearly missed defensive tackle Bryant Turner, who missed the game to return to Alabama and attend funeral services for his grandmother. Linebackers Henoc Muamba and Pierre-Luc Labbe in particular also struggled to cover Alouettes'  running back Brandon Whitaker, who had an amazing night with 18 carries for 115 yards and six catches for 64 yards. Still, the crucial problem facing this Bombers' team is how to get the offence back on track. They may have picked up 26 points Friday, but their offence was much worse than that would suggest, and it will need to be better if they want to improve their 1-5 record.

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