It's a fairly safe bet that Winnipeg Blue Bombers Defensive Coordinator Tim Burke was not a happy man after the Bombers fell to 0-2 on the 2012 CFL season with a 40-31 loss in Montreal.
The Blue Bombers defence had performed quite well in a season opening 33-16 setback in B.C., the Lions scoring 17 of their points in the fourth quarter after the Bombers defenders simply ran out of gas, a product of being on the field way too long thanks to a challenging Winnipeg offensive performance which an injury to Buck Pierce clearly contributed to.
Burke said after the Lions game that he was "relatively" pleased and encouraged. He was not expecting a collective collapse against Anthony Calvillo and his high-powered Montreal offensive unit.
He has done that regularly in his fabulous career. And it didn't take long for Calvillo to set the tone against the Bombers. The 39-year old marvel put together at 15-play, 97-yard, spanning over eight minutes on Montreal's first possession.
Before the first quarter was over Calvillo engineered another scoring drive, hooking up with Brandon Whitaker for a touchdown on a 21-yard center screen. The Bombers toughened up defensively in the second quarter, holding Montreal to a field goal, but Calvillo finished the half with 248 passing yards, and when the night was over A.C.'s line read 31 of 39 for 443 yards, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions, and no sacks against.
The Alouettes finished with 32 first downs and 551 yards of offence. Those are frightening numbers for a defensive co-ordinator to stomach, even if it's at the hands of Calvillo and his gifted band of brothers.
Calvillo was able to create mismatches for Whitaker, while the Bombers defenders had communication issues and other problems leading to far too many breakdowns. They were a step behind far too often, and if not for 3 flagrant dropped passes, the Als would have had over 600 yards of offence.
The defensive meltdown was particularly troubling given that the Bombers offence showed some very encouraging signs after a dismal start to the season in Vancouver. Receivers Chris Mathews and Terrence Edwards each had over 100 yards receiving versus Montreal, the Bombers had 24 first downs, a very promising development for a unit with a revamped offensive line and two changes at the receiver position.
But, the Winnipeg defence was the backbone of the team in last year’s run to the Grey Cup game. It will need to be again if the Bombers are to have success in 2012. As you read this, Tim Burke is hard at work, preparing for Friday's visit to Commonwealth stadium. For what it's worth, all-star Bombers defensive backs Jonathan Hefney and Jovon Johnson said they made it "way too easy" for Calvillo in Montreal, and the same will not happen in Edmonton.
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