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Tait: Blue Bombers face serious drawbacks in playoff-clinching victory

The loss of linebacker Maurice Leggett and receiver Darvin Adams is a serious blow to the team's postseason.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Maurice Leggett (31) intercepts the pass intended for Ottawa Redblacks' Greg Ellingson (82) during the second half of CFL action in Winnipeg on September 22, 2017. Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker Maurice Leggett will miss the remainder of the 2017 CFL season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon. The team made the announcement on Sunday.

John Woods / The Canadian Press

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Maurice Leggett (31) intercepts the pass intended for Ottawa Redblacks' Greg Ellingson (82) during the second half of CFL action in Winnipeg on September 22, 2017. Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker Maurice Leggett will miss the remainder of the 2017 CFL season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon. The team made the announcement on Sunday.

The scene was both bizarre and surreal. And here’s what these eyes took in…

The music was blaring early Saturday night in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers locker room, not long after the club had punched its ticket to the Grey Cup playoffs with a 26-20 victory over the B.C. Lions at Investors Group Field.

Winning ain’t easy in any league and when the Bombers not only secured their 11th win in 15 games Saturday, but qualified for the postseason, the moment is certainly worthy of the tunes being cranked to “11.”

Yet, there was also a subdued feel to the whole picture… and with good reason.

First, the offence had struggled mightily against the Lions, failing to score a touchdown – the Winnipeg TDs came via a Kevin Fogg punt return and a T.J. Heath interception – and managed just 214 net yards.

That’s fixable, to be sure.

What really stung like a kick to the nether regions, however, was the loss of linebacker Maurice Leggett and receiver Darvin Adams to injury. The club announced Sunday that Leggett is gone for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, while Adams did not finish the game after suffering a shoulder injury and was seated in the locker room afterwards with his arm in a sling.

And those two guys aren’t just a pair of regular Schmoes on this team. Leggett has been the Bombers’ Most Outstanding Defensive Player in two of the last three years and most certainly would have been in consideration to make it three of the last four. He plays the difficult outside linebacker position in the Canadian Football League that is a linebacker/defensive back hybrid in which he is asked to stick his nose in to help in support of the run defence and then be athletic enough to cover receivers.

Ask any of his Bombers teammates to use one word to describe Leggett and virtually every one of them would answer with: ‘playmaker.’

Adams, meanwhile, was having his best season as a pro with 76 receptions for a team-high 1,120 yards and seven touchdowns. He is the Bombers’ best deep threat and the kind of receiver that often demands the extra attention from defences that frees up space for the rest of his compadres on offence.

Now, the Bombers have long preached a ‘next-man-up’ philosophy and it’s been backed up by the back-ups effectively over the last two seasons.

But this is different. Leggett and Adams are two of the team’s best, and with defensive end Jamaal Westerman also gone for the season and running back/slotback Timothy Flanders on the injured list, that’s a ton of tackles, sacks, interceptions, touchdowns and first downs now out of the lineup.

That says nothing of the on-field leadership void their absences will create.

The Bombers will undoubtedly soldier on from this. It’s what they’ve done in the past through an assortment of hurts. It’s part of what has made this team so resilient in a 21-7 run that dates back to last July.

But that post-game scene Saturday night also left us pondering this: if there can be silver linings in defeat, then there most certainly are dark clouds in victory.

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Ed Tait is the Blue Bombers Director of Content. His columns appear weekly in the Metro. Follow him daily at bluebombers.com.

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