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July 13, 2019

Game Recap | TOR 21 WPG 48

It was a popular pre-game storyline swirling around the unbeaten Winnipeg Blue Bombers in advance of their meeting against the winless Toronto Argonauts, with some billing it as a dangerous ‘Trap Game’.

Yeah, about all that…

Just for the record, the Bombers killed any momentum that narrative might have had just 15 seconds into the game when Lucky Whitehead returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown as the Bombers built a 37-6 lead at the intermission and then coasted to a lopsided 48-21 win over the Boatmen in front of 24,187 on a perfect summer night at IG Field.

The win improves the Bombers to 4-0 to open the 2019 Canadian Football League season, their best start since posting a similar record in 2003. The Argos, meanwhile, fall to 0-4.

“When you’re jumping out to leads it gives the defence more confidence, and obviously our special teams came out of the gate and gave us as an offence confidence,” said Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols, who threw for three touchdowns. “It was just a good team win.”

“We would have liked to make it a little easier on ourselves in the second half, but (the Argos) are also a football team that has a lot of talented players who take a lot of pride in what they’re doing and they fought to the very end and made us have to continue to play for four quarters.”

The Bombers jumped out to a 14-zip lead, despite running just one offensive play, as Charles Nelson backed up the Whitehead return with an 84-yard punt return to the Argos four-yard line that led to a Nichols-to-Andrew Harris touchdown pass.

“I will tell Charles that I’m the fastest on the team now,” said Whitehead with a grin while sporting a ‘Flash’ T-shirt. “We’re always back and forth… he’s supposed to score on that.

“But, no, that’s exciting. Charles has that ability to take it any play. He’s quick, he’s smart back there and he takes care of the ball. It’s hard (on the opposition) when you’ve got two guys back there who can do the same thing.”

The lead grew to 21-0 when Nichols delivered a picturesque strike that covered 38 yards to Darvin Adams, and then connected with Nic Demski for a 67-yard score that had Winnipeg up by four touchdowns before the game was 20 minutes old.

The Argos came to life with two touchdowns in the third quarter as the Bombers flatlined for a spell, before the home side sealed the deal by clamping down in the fourth quarter. That third-quarter letdown, interestingly, was a big part of the post-game discussion in the Bombers dressing room.

“It’s crazy… I’m not going to say ‘mad’, but I’ve never been so down after a 20-point win,” said Demski. “I just know that there are mistakes I made personally and that offensively we can finish up the game a lot better. We’ve just got to go back to the film, clean up our mistakes and figure out how to play more consistent football.”

“It’s all about being consistent and we weren’t consistent tonight,” added Harris. “There were highlights and big points, it’s a win and we’re happy about it, but we’ve got to be cleaner than that… For us, we need to be better and close out that game in a better fashion.”

THE BIG STAT

37: Point total for the Bombers at halftime in building a 37-6 lead. That’s the most by a Bomber team in a half since August 23, 2003 when they had 42 before halftime in a 52-17 win over Calgary.

FYI:

The Bombers took some licks Friday night, losing safety Jeff Hecht, right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick and dime back Anthony Gaitor in the first half alone to injury, while Matt Nichols exited in the third quarter after taking a hit before returning. Gaitor returned in the second half – and had a fumble recovery on the Argos first possession – while Hardrick and Hecht remained in uniform and on the sidelines, but did not return.

Cody Speller slid out to Hardrick’s tackle spot, while Drew Desjarlais moved inside to left guard. Derek Jones replaced Hecht at safety.

NOTABLE:

Andrew Harris eclipsed the 8,000-yard mark in career rushing. He ranks 12th on the CFL’s all-time rushing list… The Bombers inactive player was LB Adam Bighill. Kyrie Wilson, his replacement, finished with four tackles and an interception.

NUMBERS GAME

104: The length of Lucky Whitehead’s kickoff return score. That’s the first time the Bombers returned an opening kickoff in a game since Ryan Lankford did the same in a win over Toronto on July 23, 2017.

10: TD passes for Nichols after four games. He had 18 all of last year.

+3: The Bombers were plus-three in the turnover ratio, and are now +8 on the year.

116: The rushing total for Andrew Harris, his second 100-yard game of the season after going for 148 against B.C. in the opener.

NEXT:

The Bombers are in the midst of a five-game run against East Division opponents. Winnipeg is home again next Friday against the Ottawa REDBLACKS and then hits the road for back-to-back road games in Hamilton on July 25 and Toronto on August 1.