WYMAN: All three phases contributed to Bombers epic collapse in Montreal
MONTREAL — For most of this CFL season, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been winning with a three-phase game of complementary football.
On Saturday, all three phases contributed heavily to an epic collapse.
The Bombers squandered a 24-point lead against the Montreal Alouettes, giving up three fourth-quarter touchdowns and scoring only three second half points, in a stunning 38-37 loss at Percival Molson Stadium.
It all happened after the Bombers played their best offensive half of the season, scoring touchdowns on their first four possessions of the game.
That second half though, was simply terrible.
To recap the carnage: The Bombers led 34-10 late in the second quarter before quarterback Chris Streveler threw an interception that led to a late Montreal touchdown. Then, after the Bombers made the score 37-17 in the third quarter, they collectively disappeared in the fourth. The Bombers failed to move the football on offence, could not stop Vernon Adams, Jr., and the Alouettes on defence and wound up losing on a touchdown by Jake Weineke in the dying seconds.
It didn’t help that kicker Justin Medlock missed a convert — for the first time in 105 tries — and a 53-yard field goal. Those points would have been crucial.
And the blame for the loss extended beyond the field of play.
Coaches on both sides of the ball made poor calls and head coach Mike O’Shea could find no way to stem the tide.
In the end, Adams threw for an incredible 488 yards, 248 of them in the fourth quarter.
The last time the Bombers had a quarterback throw for as many as 248 yards in an entire game was on July 26 in a loss at Hamilton.
While there were many contributors to the collapse, the most glaring problem was the Bombers’ pass defence.
Alouettes receivers were getting wide open repeatedly and Adams was extending plays and making things happen. The Bombers vaunted defensive line — even star rush end Willie Jefferson — did not have a good game and the defensive backs got burned repeatedly.
While overall, the Bombers defence has been good this season, this is not the first time it got lit up in the passing game. In previous games, the defence has allowed more than 300 yards six times, more than 400 twice.
Three times, when the defence needed stops to protect leads in fourth quarters, it was unable to do so. Three times the Bombers held leads in the final minute — even the final 10 seconds — and lost.
If you’re counting at home, that means the 9-4 Bombers have led in the final minute of 12 of their 13 games this season.
They should have a better record than 9-4.
But they also have to own this propensity for late collapses — they lost 28-27 in Toronto on a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the game and 19-17 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on a last-play field goal.
Some might take solace in the fact that the Bombers have their four games by a total of 12 points. They lost by eight once, two once and twice lost by a single point.
Others might say it’s inexcusable.
Obviously, the big concern in Winnipeg is that this promising Bombers team that started the season 5-0 will fall out of first place in the West Division and this alarming trend will carry into the playoffs.
They are now tied with the Calgary Stampeders at 9-4 and still play the defending Grey Cup champions twice. They also have another game in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who are breathing down their necks at 8-4.
The Bombers could still finish anywhere from first to fourth, and while they’ve already clinched at least a cross-over playoff spot, nobody is celebrating that fact.
The Bombers have got to figure out a way to play 60 minutes of football consistently.
They can’t take their foot off the gas, or even hit the brakes, as safety Jeff Hecht said they did on Saturday.
Offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice can’t be too conservative in the play-calling and defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall can’t have his secondary playing so loosely as it did on Saturday.
It was downright ugly. One more first down from the offence, one stop by the defence, one field goal, was all the Bombers needed and they simply couldn’t make it happen.
The Bombers play nothing but good teams down the stretch — they host the 10-3 Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday, go to Saskatchewan on Oct. 5 and face the Alouettes again in Winnipeg on Oct. 12 before closing with a home and home against the Stampeders.
Thirty-, 40- or 50-minute performances won’t be good enough.
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