By Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming)
WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defence put together an excellent effort Saturday night in front of 28,534 at Investors Group Field, but key mistakes and penalties on offence and critical errors on special teams ultimately cost them in a 16-11 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Quarterback Drew Willy — following a question-ridden week regarding the health and playing status of the Bombers franchise signal-caller — gave his team a chance to win in the game’s final seconds, but a time-count violation on second-and-goal, followed by a miscommunication on their final shot to score resulted in Winnipeg’s fourth-straight loss and sixth defeat in their last seven games.
“We were just on different pages. I’ll take blame for it,” said Willy of his offence’s final play in the aftermath of his 27-of-41 for 303-yard and 1 touchdown passing performance. “We had it rolling there at the end. To get to the three yard line and not finish the game, it’s quite disappointing.”
“Gutsy. He got sacked five times. He got hit a bunch,” said head coach Mike O’Shea of Willy’s pain-filled performance coming off an injury to his throwing shoulder in their last game. “He got a couple times roughing the passer. Guys took shots on him and he kept getting up and kept going. He lead us on a drive right at the very end with a chance to win the game.”
“We’ve got to come out of the gate better,” said veteran offensive tackle Glenn January. “The fourth-quarter heroics are fun for the storyline, but if we come out and play that way for the whole game it’s a completely different outcome.”
“We keep shooting ourselves in the foot,” said receiver Aaron Kelly of his team’s 15 penalties for 130 yards, including four on offence for 40 yards in addition to the critical loss of second down and goal with 16-seconds remaining. “Because we’ve got great players and great talent here, guys that don’t give up, we’re still in the game. We still make it a game and have a chance to win. But it’s late in the season and it’s not good enough.”
“It’s going to be tough,” said running back Nic Grigsby of the Blue Bombers’ five remaining regular season games, sitting in last place in the West at 6-7. “From here on out we’ve got to win. We know what we can do. We can’t play the way we played, taking penalties, it’s just ridiculous. (Hamilton) did nothing. They actually blew a lot of assignments out there that we mis-cued on… No excuses. That’s on us.”
“It was everything. It’s an all-around thing — coaches, players, we’ve all got to be on the same page out there. One thing I can say about us, that we love each other and we’re fighting for each other. We had the game in our hands.”
Winnipeg now heads out on a two-game road swing, facing the 1-11 Ottawa RedBlacks on Friday and then to Edmonton on October 13 for an important division matchup with the 9-4 Eskimos.