Following Winnipeg’s improbable, gut-wrenching, spleen-twisting 25-24 loss to the Roughriders in Sunday’s Banjo Bowl; I witnessed a sight that will stick with me for a long time.
No, it wasn’t Bombers head coach Tim Burke looking dazed as he wandered around the field on his way to the locker room, wondering how his second game as a head coach had gone so awry. Nor was it Sandro DeAngelis’ celebration after his last-play, 40-yard game winning field goal.
|Letting One Slip Away|
The Saskatchewan Roughriders clawed their way to an improbable last-second victory thanks to a 40-yard field goal by Sandro DeAngelis.
» WATCH: Riders' Game-Winning Drive
Rather, what struck me most as I peered out at the sun-baked stands at Canad Inns Stadium, was the sight of thousands upon thousands of Blue Bomber supporters, transfixed and unable to move as if they were so stunned by a stupefying development.
There was no rush to the exits for the Bombers faithful, just fans who invested their time and passion to the game, standing silent, stunned and in disbelief that their favourite team, against all odds, found a way to lose this football game.
And I do mean, “found a way to lose.”
Sure, the Bombers had bounced back from a 52-0 loss at Mosaic Stadium in Regina the week before with an inspired, spirited effort, but their passion resulted in another unfortunate outcome.
It's easy to pin the horns on Burke, and he was not afraid to wear them after the game, admitting he should have gone for a 43-yard field goal (with the wind), with less than a minute left that would have put the Bombers up by four points.
Instead, Burke asked Mike Renaud to punt the ball out of bounds deep in Saskatchewan territory, something Renaud had done with impressive regularity for much of the season. And this is where you could quite easily start spreading the blame around.
Renaud didn't even come close to the sideline as his punt rolled through the end zone for a single point that was meaningless.
Still, the Riders only had 38 seconds left on the clock, they were working into the wind, and they had their backup quarterback Drew Willy in the game. However, with the Bombers playing an incredibly cautious prevent-style defence, Willy was able to complete two passes and run for 13 yards himself, setting the stage for DeAngelis' heroics.
And aside from the joyous screams of the Rider players, and the cheering of the small contingent of Saskatchewan fans, you could literally hear a pin drop in front of 30,000 onlookers.
Oh, and I failed to mention that the Bombers took three undisciplined rough play penalties that contributed mightily to the loss. The Winnipeg offence fired blanks yet again; six times getting inside the Rider 30-yard line and NOT ONCE managing to score a touchdown.
Three of those times they were at the 15-yard line or closer. The Bomber offence has now gone nine-straight quarters without scoring a touchdown.
But, as I surveyed the thousands of Blue and Gold clad customers who stood at their seats, their eyes glazed over, some of them in tears, I could only hope that the players and coaches understood how much their successes and failures meant to the people who pay their salaries.
Bob Irving has covered the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for CJOB Radio in Winnipeg since 1973. Bob is the Sports Director at CJOB and is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, reporters division. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobIrvingCJOB
|2||Blue Bombers||DE||Mulumba, Andy|
|3||Alouettes via EDM||LB||Edem, Mike|