Ottawa-ON-August-04: Canadian Football League action between the Ottawa Redblacks and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers TD Place Stadium, in Ottawa, ON, Canada, (Photographed by Marc Bourget/marcbourget.ca)
OTTAWA – It’s official: watching the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 2017 edition, should now come with a not-suitable-for-heart-patients advisory.
The Bombers, just as they did in last week’s win over the Montreal Alouettes and on two other occasions this season – an opening night OT victory in Saskatchewan and a late loss in Vancouver – served up another thriller Friday night in the nation’s capital, riding a 38-yard field goal from Justin Medlock with zeroes on the clock to a 33-30 victory over the Ottawa REDBLACKS.
The win, the second straight on the last play of the night, improves the Bombers record to 4-2 while the Grey Cup champion REDBLACKS fall to 1-5-1 – the five losses coming by a combined 13 points.
“A game like that is harder on my parents and my family than anybody,” said Bombers centre Matthias Goossen with a huge grin inside a jubilant visitors locker room. “They just texted me and said you’ve got to make us nervous. But it seems like every game is coming down to that. We’ve got to continue to be ready for that and thrive on that.”
Trailing 30-23 with less than 10 minutes remaining, the Bombers got three field goals – including the game winner – and a critical kickoff single from Medlock to seal the deal. The veteran hoofer finished the night six of seven in the field goal department while working with new/old holder Matt Coates, who was replacing Weston Dressler. And while Medlock and Coates had worked together before during their days with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the game was played in a drizzle on a muggy night with an occasionally stiff south wind.
“He’s a good friend of mine,” said Medlock. “I needed him back in Hamilton and today is a game where you’ve just got to grind… I knew he’d come through and he did.
“It’s good to come through for the team. They signed me here for a reason, to make the big kicks. I’m grinding out there just like these guys are to try and help the team.”
Pushed around early when Ottawa opened the game with a precision-like 13-play, 85-yard scoring drive, the Bomber defence stiffened and forced two turnovers – the first a Taylor Loffler strip of a William Powell run that was recovered and returned for a 24-yard TD by Chris Randle, the second on an Ottawa third-and-one gamble – and was then massive late. The defence forced Ottawa to a pair of two-and-outs on their last two possessions – and when trailing 30-27 – to set up the late dramatics.
Winnipeg’s last possession began with 30 seconds remaining on their own 47 and moved into Medlock range when Matt Nichols hooked up with T.J. Thorpe and Clarence Denmark for 23 yards before Andrew Harris bulled for 10 yards to set up Medlock’s last shot.
“We’ve been doing that two-minute offence since training camp, so we know when we get in that situation it’s second nature,” said receiver Ryan Lankford, who scored the Bombers’ other touchdown on a 79-yard bomb from Nichols on Winnipeg’s first offensive snap.
“Chaos… we kind of like chaos. It’s not that bad, it’s not that difficult. We’ve got two minutes… that’s a lot of time. We just go out there and do what we need to do and let it all play out.”
Just for the record, that’s four wins for the Bombers – now tied with the B.C. Lions for third place in the tight West Division – one in overtime and two on the last play of the game.
Just another day at the office for the Bombers, right Mr. Nichols?
“Just how we drew it up,” said Nichols. “We don’t like to play games that don’t come down till the last play of the game.
“It felt like as a team we overcame a lot tonight. Every phase stepped up at crucial points when we needed to… defence got that last stop for us, special teams put us in position and special teams finished it off after we got a couple completions together.
“It’s a full team win. This is a team that talks about it every week: stay off the roller-coaster and find a way to win at the end.”
THE BIG STAT
21 – Points scored by Justin Medlock in the 33-30 win – six field goals, one converts and two singles.
In the first game with the CFL’s altered challenge rule – just one per game – both coaches used theirs in successive plays in the second quarter. Mike O’Shea won his challenge when the officials missed a pass interference call on Justin Rose in coverage of Darvin Adams that resulted in a 35-yard gain; Ottawa’s Rick Campbell lost his when challenging that an incomplete pass should have been ruled a lateral after they recovered the ball.
Moe Leggett’s first game back after missing two with an injury was a solid one – he finished the night with seven tackles, five of them on the opening drive, two sacks and one forced fumble.
“That first quarter was a little rough on me,” said Leggett. “But that was just anxiety and once I started to settle down it was all good. (Ottawa) just tried to test my injury to see how it would hold up. They made me run… for me, if you’re not actually doing surgery on me then I can go at any point in time. That’s how I feel: I can give you everything in the tank.”
14-5: The Bombers record in their last 19 regular season games; 10-3 last year and 4-2 to start 2017.
319: Passing yards for Matt Nichols on 25 of 38 attempts.
14: Consecutive pass completions by Ottawa QB Trevor Harris during a stretch in the first quarter. Harris had his first attempt dropped before going on his 14-for-14 run. The streak ended with a knockdown by T.J. Heath on an attempt to Cody Hoffman.
79: Length of the touchdown by Ryan Lankford on a pass from Matt Nichols on the Bombers first offensive snap. It was the longest receiving TD of Lankford’s career.
9-95: Penalties and yardage total by the Bombers Friday night, including four by the offensive line on three illegal blocks and a hold.
3: Chris Randle’s fumble-recovery TD was the third of his career and first since 2014.
THE COACH SAYS
“There’s a lot of trusts in all three phases on the sidelines. It comes from being there and coming through these things. We’ll just keep going at it. But it’s important the guys go through that and experience a little bit of adversity and understand they can win in all sorts of areas. It’s a good reminder.” – Mike O’Shea.