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July 4, 2019

Game Preview | WPG at OTT

Winnipeg Blue Bombers #13 Chris Matthews

Presented by:

WEEK 4 | WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (2-0) at OTTAWA REDBLACKS (2-0)

THE 4-1-1

Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. CT, Friday, TD Place Stadium, Ottawa
TV: TSN, RDS, ESPN+
Radio: 680 CJOB
Vegas line: The REDBLACKS are favoured by 3.5 points.
Home/Road: The Bombers are 1-0 on the road so far this year after their season-opening victory in Vancouver back on June 15th. The Bombers were 4-5 on the road last season. Ottawa is 1-0 at home so far this year after a 44-41 win over Saskatchewan in Week 2. The REDBLACKS were 6-3 at TD Place Stadium last year.
Recent history: The Bombers are 2-0 to start a season for the first time since 2014 and are coming off a 28-21 win over Edmonton in their home opener a week ago. Winnipeg has won its last three visits to Ottawa, including last year’s 40-32 thriller in OT. The REDBLACKS had a bye last week and are also unbeaten at 2-0. The last time they had a start this good was 2016, when they opened were 3-0-1 in their first four games..
Series: The Bombers are 45-31-1 all time vs. the Ottawa Rough Riders/Renegades/REDBLACKS. Winnipeg is also a solid 23-17 in Ottawa over that span, including wins in their last three visits to the nation’s capital.

3 STORYLINES

1. STAY ON THE FIELD, O

It says something about the potential of the Bombers offence – and of all the weaponry at the disposal of Matt Nichols & Co. – that any two-and-out possession seems to elicit such shock and anger.

The Bombers have eight touchdowns in two games, including six through the air, and have averaged 30.5 points in their wins. But in the immediate post-mortem of their home-opening victory over Edmonton last week there was a lot of gnashing of teeth about the inconsistency of the attack.

Let’s get this out of the way first: yes, the Eskimos have a sturdy D-line that can mess up any gameplan with their work up front. But the Bombers only had 14 first downs last week – to Edmonton’s 29 – and while they piled up four touchdowns, their total net offence was just 270 yards and the time of possession was only 23:40.

The Bombers were just 6-of-17 (35%) on second-down conversions, and included in that was a mediocre 2-of-4 conversion of second downs of just 1-3 yards.

It’s a fact offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice pointed out earlier in the week and the formula here is simple: more second-down conversions means the Bombers offence stays on the field more. That means more touches for everyone, and – potentially – a lot less angst about an offence that has seems to have such a high ceiling.

2. GET OFF THE FIELD, D

Offensive types will often thumb their noses at the time-of-possession stat as not always representative of their work. Case in point: in last week’s win over Edmonton, the Bombers held the ball for almost 13 minutes less than the Eskimos, but they did score four touchdowns to zero for the Eskimos – including two big-play touchdowns by Lucky Whitehead that do obviously impact the time of possession.

The defensive viewpoint on time of possession, naturally, is quite different. As he has said in the past, Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea bristled at the ‘bend, but don’t break’ description concept earlier this week, claiming it is a media term and that no defence takes to the field ever hoping to bend.

It’s obviously not that black and white, but in limiting the Eskimos to seven field goals the Bombers defence was a rock in last week’s win. That said, Edmonton ran 77 offensive plays as Trevor Harris completed 35 of his 54 attempts for 345 yards, while the Esks also rushed 22 times – albeit for just a 4.5-yards per carry average. But of the Bombers eight penalties, five were on defence, and those are infractions that can also keep drives alive.

Still, it’s early, the defence has surrendered just one TD in two games and the Bombers are 2-0. And just like the offence, there is a sense this defensive dozen has a huge ceiling.

3. FAMILIAR FACES IN NEW PLACES

The Ottawa roster is dotted with a handful of former Bombers, including highly-respected veteran cornerback Chris Randle, receivers Ryan Lankford and Julian Feoli-Gudino, and defensive tackle Ettore Lattanzio, a 2015 draft pick who landed in his hometown after his release from Winnipeg.

But the highest profile ex-Bomber to take the field Friday will be quarterback Dominique Davis, who is 2-0 as a starter this year and 3-0 dating back to last season.

Through two games, Davis – who spent three years in Winnipeg as an understudy – has completed 71.1 percent of his passes for 630 yards with three touchdowns against four interceptions. But he has also rushed 10 times for 53 yards this year and his ability to make plays outside of the pocket is an aspect of his game for which the Bombers are preparing.

“He’s a very athletic quarterback,” said defensive back Marcus Sayles. “We feel like we’re going to have to be able to stop his run. He has a very strong arm and can probably launch the ball 60-65 yards.

“As long as we stop his first reads and limit his run game, I feel like we’re going to have a good day on defence.”

THE QBS

  • Winnipeg’s Matt Nichols is 40-26 as a starter in the CFL. The Bombers are 32-15 with Nichols at the controls dating back to late July of 2016.
  • Dominique Davis is 3-1 in his career as a starter – all three wins as a member of the REDBLACKS, with the lone loss back in 2015 in the Bombers regular season finale.

 

3 BOMBERS TO WATCH

#7 Lucky Whitehead, WR: So, what does Mr. Whitehead do for an encore? His Bombers home debut was superb as he flashed every aspect of his skillset, and in celebrating with fans in both end zones after touchdowns, the absolute joy he brings to the game.

#29 Jeff Hecht, S: A quarterback like Dom Davis – who can extend plays with his legs while still keeping his eyes downfield for targets – can put extra pressure on the safety. Hecht had two interceptions in the opener being in the right place at the right time.

#94 Jackson Jeffcoat, DE: Picked up his first sack of 2019 last week against Edmonton. The Bombers have two sacks in two games, one by Jeffcoat and the other by Drake Nevis, and will want to be in the REDBLACKS’s offensive backfield a ton on Friday night.

X FACTOR

#9 Justin Medlock, K: Medlock has hall-of-fame numbers, but his totals against Ottawa are especially impressive. Medlock is 20-21 against the REDBLACKS on field goal attempts during his three years as a Bomber. That’s a sparkling 95.2 percent success rate.

NOTABLE

The Bombers are making one change to their roster this week, but it is significant: middle linebacker Adam Bighill has been moved to the one-game injured list and his spot on the roster will be taken by LB Nick Temple. Bighill’s absence means Kyrie Wilson will move over to start in the middle, with Canadian Jesse Briggs slotting into to Wilson’s weak side linebacker spot.

JUICY NUMBER

In the Bombers last three visits to Ottawa – all wins – Matt Nichols has completed 70.4 percent of his passes for 883 yards with seven touchdowns against just one interception.