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55 Yard Line

Turnovers kill Bombers in a 32-21 loss to Calgary that shouldn’t have been that close

Winnipeg QB Joey Elliott, seen being sacked by Charleston Hughes, threw four picks Saturday.

Live by the turnover, die by the turnover. That could be the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' motto of late, as five opposition turnovers led them to an improbable win in Montreal last week and eight turnovers of their own doomed them against Calgary Saturday. It was more than just turnovers, of course; despite having a great opportunity to improve their playoff hopes, the Bombers came out completely flat with appalling effort and execution, and the final 11-point deficit was flattering to them. Still, the turnovers were the most compelling sign of everything that's wrong with this team, which still has a slim chance to make the playoffs but absolutely doesn't deserve to if they keep playing this way.

The chief culprit Saturday was quarterback Joey Elliott, who personally epitomized the team-wide theme of blowing a great opportunity. The 26-year-old Elliott was only starting thanks to Buck Pierce's ongoing concussion issues, but he showed a lot of promise in a 335-yard, three-touchdown performance against Montreal that saw him chosen as the league's offensive player of the week, and he had an excellent chance to show he deserved a further look as Winnipeg's starter. The only position Elliott earned Saturday was a seat on the bench, though; he completed 22 of 33 passes (66.7 per cent) for an acceptable 284 yards, but threw four interceptions that played a critical role in the Bombers' demise.

It wasn't just Elliott, though. His interceptions were only half of the Bombers' turnovers on the day. Running back Chad Simpson, returner Deon Washington and backup quarterback Alex Brink all fumbled, and Winnipeg committed a crucial turnover on downs as well. Beyond the turnovers, the lack of effort at every position was staggering, particularly in a secondary that frequently decided to wave at Calgary players instead of actually tackling them. Jovon Johnson in particular was burned time after time after time, showing just how far he's fallen since he won the league's top defensive player award last season. Of course, it doesn't help that the Bombers are playing him out of position at linebacker for some reason, but his play's declined dramatically, as has the performance of most of the Winnipeg defence. The offence has struggled as well, and that was also evident Saturday, as in addition to Elliott's problems in the passing game, they couldn't block or keep possession of the ball; Calgary held the ball for 13:26 of the 15-minute first quarter and 21:05 of the 30-minute first-half.

What's really embarrassing for the Stampeders here is that they almost gave this game away. They were by far the better team for most of this contest, but couldn't turn possession into points consistently and committed some critical turnovers of their own, including a late Jon Cornish fumble that could have been disastrous against a team with an actual offence. They earned the win, improved to 9-6 and solidified their spot in the Western playoff positioning war, but they won't be feeling all that good about their play. Perhaps that's an even more scathing indictment of the Blue Bombers than anything else.

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