Bomber fans had good reason to be excited for the rest of the season after the Winnipeg team opened the 2011 regular season with back-to-back wins, their best start since 2003.
But the optimism and good spirit seem to disappear all at once when history appeared ready to repeat itself at Canad Inns Stadium on July 14. In a rough Week 3 match-up against the Calgary Stampeders that featured some questionably late hits on Bombers starting quarterback Buck Pierce, news spread quickly throughout the stands at the start of the third quarter that Pierce suffered a leg injury and would be replaced for the remainder of the game by back-up QB Joey Elliot.
Pierce has been labelled injury prone, having suffered numerous concussions and injuries throughout his seven years in the CFL, including a severe knee injury in Week 3 last year that kept him out of action until Labour Day . This time around the culprit was a bruised quadriceps although it doesn’t appear as if the injury will force him to miss the next game, two at the very most. However, during his time under centre in the second half, Joey Elliot sustained a torn ACL while preventing a touchdown on a Calgary fumble recovery and requires season-ending surgery.
The man who took over the offence in the second half, and nearly won the game by driving the Bombers down field for a late game-winning field goal attempt into the wind, looked pretty good in the losing effort. Despite getting off to a slow start, Elliot managed the offence well, did a good job at protecting the ball and got it out to receivers quickly. His departure now leaves a gaping hole at the QB position on the depth chart that will give the Bomber front office plenty to think about as they prepare for their upcoming games in Toronto and at home against B.C..
Fortunately, for all the drama and struggles on offence, defensively the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been simply dominant. The Bombers defence leads the league in takeaways, and after three games they also lead the league in sacks with 13. The Bombers defence has given up an average of less than 300 yards of total offence per game and have only allowed three touchdowns.
Being anchored by strong performances on defence has afforded the Bomber offence some breathing room during an inconsistent and injury-ridden start to the season. After a breakout year in 2010 and working out for NFL teams in the offseason, slotback Terence Jeffers-Harris has been underwhelming to start the season. Greg Carr, another receiver who shone last year, has been sidelined due to injuries suffered during training camp, and rookie non-import receiver Kito Poblah was placed on the nine-game injured reserve list after Week 1. Finding their groove, regardless of who’s under centre, is first priority if the Bombers are going to capitalize on their quick start out of the gate.
Only three games into an 18-game schedule, it’s too soon to predict how the rest of the season will play out. We’ve already witnessed Buck Pierce get knocked out of the game once, albeit from what should end up being a fairly minor injury. Notwithstanding the severity of the injury, if the offensive line doesn’t do a better job protecting him and the receivers don’t do a better job getting open down field, odds are that Buck’s going to continue to take unnecessary hits.
Unless one of our back-up quarterbacks is a diamond in the rough, a serious injury to Pierce might leave the Bombers in an all too familiar situation.