If it is indeed true that adversity reveals the true character of people, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have entered a period of discovery as Mike O’Shea’s rookie year as head coach approaches its midway point.
After a heady 5-1 start, the Bombers have lost two games in a row. The first one was a hard-fought 23-17 setback at the hands of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The second one was a 38-21 beatdown by the Argonauts at Rogers Center in Toronto.
Against the Argos, the Bombers were coming off a short-week while the Argos had enjoyed a bye. O’Shea refused to use fatigue as an excuse, but former Bomber Doug Brown, on the 680-CJOB post-game show, felt it was entirely the reason that Toronto gradually took over the game.
In both games, the Bombers had toruble finding consistency on offence, and in both games their defence showed a susceptibility to the run. Saskatchewan rolled up 186 yards on the ground and the Argos totalled 174 against the mobile but small Bomber defensive front.
O’Shea conceded that his team tackled poorly in the Toronto game, but he refuted any theory that the Bombers lack of size up front coupled with the unique “style” of defence they play under Gary Etcheverry was responsible for the sudden inability to stop the run.
He argued that Etcheverry’s defence, while different, is sound against the run as long as the players carry out their responsibilities. As far as the offence is concerned, O’Shea said the offensive line has to play better, but again, he said he doesn’t see any reason to be overly concerned.
To some degree, the back-to-back Winnipeg losses are probably just a case of the Canadian Football Universe correcting itself. The Bombers probably weren’t as good as their 5-1 start suggested, and they are probably better than they looked in getting overpowered by the Argos. Big picture, the Bombers ARE a very respectable 5-3.
This is the first time, though, that O’Shea’s gang has had to deal with any degree of adversity.
The Bomber head coach believes it’s important for everybody to take a physical and mental break from the game when the opportunity is there. But when the Bomber players go back to work, O’Shea says they can expect to be pushed hard in practice.
And, given the strength the West division is showing, when the Bombers meet the Alouettes on Friday, they will be playing a game that has more on the line than any other they have played this season.