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Blue Bombers turn to offence to try to improve record

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The Canadian Press
10/1/2013 6:26:49 PM
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WINNIPEG -- They're frustrated and leaving it all on the field.

About all that's left to pull out of the bag for the Winnipeg Blue Bomber defence would be scoring a lot of points, to make up for what the team's offence isn't doing this season.

Not that they haven't thought about it, with the team poised to set a record for futility.

"We're going to try and do that too, get some turnovers, get some touchdowns, that would definitely help," said CFL sack-leader Alex Hall after practice Tuesday.

"It is frustrating but it's a team sport. All you can do is control what you can control."

If the Bombers, 2-11, don't win another game, they would sink below the 3-15 in 1998 under Jeff Reinebold that stands as their worst season in the modern 18-game CFL.

Coach Tim Burke, who comes from the defensive side of the ball himself, would certainly like to see a few more forced turnovers like those that crippled his offence Friday in a 53-17 loss to the B.C. Lions.

But he isn't banking on them.

"Those opportunities are usually few and far between," he says.

They often come, he noted, when a team is solidly ahead and the losing squad is forced to try and make riskier throws -- witness what happened last Friday.

"We haven't had that luxury."

He knows it's hard for the defence to sit and watch what has been happening lately.

"It does get frustrating for the defence a lot the last couple of weeks . . . I think we're playing about as good as we can play right now (on defence)."

But he also says the shoe has been, and can again be, on the other foot.

Hall has 15 sacks so far this season, one of a couple of Bomber defensive players who have made a real mark. Linebacker Henoc Muamba currently ranks second in tackles in the league.

Two other Bombers are in the top 10 as far as sacks are concerned and two are in the top-10 list of tackles as well.

Offensively, though, there's not much to brag about.

After a solid start, running back Chad Simpson sits in fifth place in rushing yards. But what looked like another promising season has been hamstrung by injuries and an ever-revolving carousel of quarterbacks.

The latest to take a snap is Max Hall, who will start again Saturday in Calgary against the Stampeders.

It's been a season of backups in Winnipeg and Hall has been the most effective, connecting with 66 of 105 throws for a passing percentage of 62.9 per cent and 827 yards. But he has also made plenty of mistakes, including seven interceptions (two on Friday).

After Friday's offensive debacle, he bolted from the dressing room without talking to reporters about his performance. His offence scored two touchdowns and gave up three and Hall was yanked after the first half.

He apologized Tuesday for running out.

"You always have to hold yourself accountable," he said.

Hall, new to the CFL this season, gets why the defence is frustrated but says there is hope.

"We're moving the ball and we just have to eliminate the turnovers and the big mistakes.

"If we do that we're fine but we just haven't been able to do that in the last couple of games and we need to do that this week."

Burke said the offence practised well Tuesday.

Receiver Cory Watson, offensive lineman Steve Morley and safety Dan West are all expected back in the lineup Saturday.

Tim Burke (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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