Three areas that need immediate improvement

The Riders were blownout by the Redblacks this afternoon, in a game that was closer to Murphy’s Law than football. Likewise, the Bombers were embarrassed at home last night by the league leading Calgary Stampeders. These two bottom dwelling clubs will kick off against each other next week in Regina for the Labour Day Classic (LDC), a CFL tradition that’s never been friendly to the Bombers.

The Bombers are a dismal 16-27 against their prairie rivals in the contest since 1950, according to the CFL. In the 90s, the Riders won 8 LDCs and are currently on a five-year winning streak. Despite the 0­–9 Riders’ horrible season, there’s no reason to think that the Riders won’t be able to extend that streak next week based on the way the Bombers have played since Willy’s hyper-extended knee.

Here’s my list of three things the Bombers need to do in order to avoid Saskatchewan from being just another team to take advantage of an easy two points.

QBs need to step up.

Either Marve or Brohm need to step up and own this offense. Brohm’s numbers are terrible. He’s completed only 50% of passes. Marve’s completion rating isn’t much better, and both QBs have been picked off four times.

With Willy being out indefinitely, if one of these guys isn’t able to show that they can produce with consistency, the Bombers can say goodbye to yet another season. Edmonton and Toronto are good examples of teams in similar situations that are getting it done with backup QBs and having success. The weapons are there in the receiving corps, but guys like Nick Moore and Clarence Denmark can only do so much.

O-line must solidify.

There’s no excuse here, and it’s quite simple. The offensive line needs to do a better job protecting the man behind them. Ask any fan in Winnipeg and they’ll surely tell you that the o-line has been brutal for a while, not just this season. Something has to give. If the current group can’t get it done then maybe it’s time to bring in new guys from outside.

If Marve of Brohm are to have any success, they need more time find an open guy. On Saturday, Marve usually had enough time to look at one receiver if he was lucky before pressure got to him, at which point he was either flushed or sacked. A lot of opportunities were lost because Marve didn’t have the time to make a second look, and on many plays there were open receivers that he simply didn’t see.

The Calgary defense got through the Bomber offensive line for a sack on five separate occasions last night, and while that’s still half as often as the Redblacks got to the Riders’ QB today, it’s a far cry from acceptable. A productive and consistent offense begins with its o-line, and right now, the Bombers’ is full of holes.

Creative play calling.

The offense wasn’t just unproductive last night, they were downright predictable. They played a conservative pass game where Marve kept most, if not all, his passes on a short leash. He looked deep only twice and failed to connect both times. Besides that, he usually only looked between five and 10 yards downfield. Calgary’s defense was able to read him like a book, picking up two picks and limiting production to a mere 94 yards.

Good offenses have rhythm in the way they distribute the football, but more than that, they’re creative. The only flash of creativity the Bomber offense showed last night was a couple failed deep ball attempts. As the game went on, Stampeder DBs didn’t have any problems figuring out which receivers were most likely to get the ball, as only Denmark and Moore were getting thrown to. Denmark finished the game with six catches while Moore had five, and that was pretty much it. Gordon and Thomas both had a catch each, getting seven and nine yards respectively.

Predictable offenses are every defense’s dream. It doesn’t get much more predictable than throwing to only two targets.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are far from a threat to any team, even the bluest of Bombers, based on their showing today against Ottawa. But history is not on Winnipeg’s side in the LDC, and the Riders are a desperate, wounded team that just might surprise the Bombers by trying something crazy like, oh, I don’t know, a punt fake, a direct snap to a RB or receiver.

Here’s hoping that the Bombers can turn the Riders into an 0–10 team.

Pregame look at the stats.

The Bombers face an opponent today they’ve only defeated three times in their last 15 encounters. The high-flying Stamps lead the West with 12 points, while the Bombers are ahead of only the lowly Riders with six.

But Robert Marve says he’s feeling confident and ready for his second career start, and a big reason for that is the bye week.

Looking at the stats between the two teams, it might be hard to tell that the Stamps double the point total of the Blue before this game. First downs are close, total yards are within 300—advantage Calgary—rushing yards are within 50—edge to Calgary—and turnover on down are identical at four a piece. Both teams have given up over 500 yards to punt returners this season, and the Bombers win the kickoff return differential by a long shot.

Winnipeg’s allowed 26 sacks against, while getting to opponents’ QBs only 15 times—numbers I’m sure they’d love to reverse. But the Stamps’ pivots have been hit 21 times, while their defense has only registered three more sacks than the Bombers.

So what separates these two teams?

The one glaring difference on the stats sheet is point for and against. Winnipeg’s total points scored is 160 versus 237 against, no thanks to a couple big blowouts at the hands of the Ti-Cats and one against the Eskimos.

Calgary’s point differential is reflective of a winning team, 219 for and 182 against.

Regardless of the stats though, the Bombers need to find a way to pull together and get their first win with Marve at the helm in order to stay in the playoff race in the West.

The last meeting between these two clubs resulted in a one-point heartbreaker for the Bombers. Let’s see if they can find redemption this time around.